Last month the Home Office informed local councils and other organisations that it had agreed an initial 12-month contract with housing provider Mears Group to manage privately owned Thwaite Hall in Cottingham as an accommodation centre for up to 200 single male asylum seekers. At the time, it was anticipated the empty building would open within a fortnight.
However, it was confirmed today the plans to house asylum seekers in Thwaite Hall have now been paused after an intervention by Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis, whose constituency includes Cottingham. It follows a meeting between Davis, Hull North MP Diana Johnson, East Riding Council’s housing portfolio holder Claire Homes, and Home Office minister Kevin Foster yesterday.
Plans halted at the last minute
The meeting was held 24 hours before the first asylum seekers were due to arrive at the site. Davis said it was arranged after concerns were raised locally about the suitability of the proposal and the lack of proper and adequate public consultation:
“Pausing these proposals is absolutely the correct thing to do. but it should not have required a robust and forthright meeting with the minister to get to this point. The Home Office’s management of this has been incredibly poor.
“There has been no consultation with the local community about these proposals and communication has been wholly inadequate. Residents of Cottingham deserve better.
“The Home Office and Mears Group now need to use this period to carry out proper consultation to inform on the suitability of these proposals. Every part of the country must do its bit and take its fair share of refugees but the idea that 200 single adult men are a good fit for the Cottingham area is laughable.
“A mix of families would be much more suitable. I will continue to press the Home Office to try to ensure these proposals work for both the migrants and, most importantly, the local community in Cottingham.”
Lack of Home Office consultation regarding asylum seekers
Davis said the current proposals would be both unfair on the people arriving to live at the site and the local community, with little apparent thought given to the potential impact on local services, particularly health and dental care. Both the leader of East Riding Council Jonathan Owen, and Councillor Homes have also written to the Home Office raising concerns since the proposals were first announced.
The historic hall with large open grounds was previously run by the University of Hull before being sold in 2018 as a potential development opportunity. Its new owners had planned to convert the buildings on the site on Thwaite Road into 30 flats and 29 town houses along with 20 new houses and three town houses.
Under the Home Office plans, the hall and an area of the gardens would be set aside for new arrivals into the country who are awaiting confirmation of their asylum application before being moved to other accommodation. The Mears Group currently manages three accommodation sites for asylum seekers in Hull, including two hotels and a former residential home for the elderly.
Hull City Council initially protested about the lack of consultation with public bodies around the decision in late 2019 by the Home Office to start using the Royal Hotel in the city centre There have also been concerns raised about safety standards at the former residential home which is being used by family groups.
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