Residents of Northop Hall, a village in Flintshire with a population of roughly 1,500, argue it is “wrong” for asylum seekers to be accommodated in the village due to the lack of infrastructure, both for those who already live there and for those who would be arriving.
Plans are under way to convert a disused hotel near the village into accommodation for roughly 150 asylum seekers, while a further 250 could be housed in modular accommodation to be built on the hotel’s grounds.
Last month, the hotel’s owner, Payman 3 Holdings, launched a public consultation on the proposals ahead of submitting a full planning application to Flintshire Council.
The proposals have been met with strong opposition in the local area, with residents arguing that it is wrong to place asylum seekers in an area without any local services and minimal public transport.
“It’s a small village. We have one small corner shop. The post office closed a few years ago. There are no medical facilities, no GP or dentist or health centre or anything like that,” local resident Tracy North told i.
Ms North said the local bus service was reduced during the pandemic and the last service from the nearest town leaves at 2.30pm, while no buses run on a Sunday.
“We don’t think it’s going to be good for [asylum seekers] to be stuck here with nothing to do and no real access to get anywhere. They can’t get to a solicitor to start their asylum application. There are no refugee support organisations here or in the area.
“It’s very pretty countryside but it’s not going to be very good for them to start to make their application and possibly rebuild their lives.”
Fellow Northop Hall resident Catherine Owens added: “It’s not right for Flintshire. It’s not right for Northhop Hall. It’s not right for refugees to be brought here when there’s nothing here for them. It’s just wrong on every level.”
Local MP Rob Roberts wrote to the Home Office at the end of last month asking it to agree that it would not use the hotel to house asylum seekers even if the owner does receive planning permission, however he told i he is yet to receive a response to that letter.
He said he understands that asylum seekers must be accommodated somewhere, but said there could be a “lie down in front of the diggers moment” in the village if the plans go ahead.
Mr Roberts, who grew up in the village, said it had “awful transport links” and that the local health board had been under special measures for the past eight years.
“You couldn’t put 400 teachers, nurses or nuns in there and it would be OK. Let alone anyone else. It’s not who they are that’s the issue. There’s no infrastructure or capacity,” he said.
The plan to house migrants in the village comes despite the Government’s promise to move away from housing asylum seekers in hotels.
In March, the Home Office announced over 5,000 migrants would be housed in four new sites across the UK, including a barge at Portland Port in Dorset, disused military sites in Lincolnshire and Essex, and an old prison in East Sussex.
Announcing the plans in Parliament, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said the sites must be delivered “if we are to stop the use of hotels”.
However, the sites have all faced strong oppositon locally and are all subject to legal threats.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels and has put our asylum system under incredible strain.
“We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently more than 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6 million a day.
“The Home Office is committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and limit the burden on the taxpayer.”