Britannia Hotels have been told by Blackpool Council that their Metropole Hotel will require specific planning permission before the seafront building can be turned over to a hostel to house asylum seekers. If Britannia Hotels fail to comply Blackpool Council say they will issue a stop notice prohibiting use of the site as a hostel. This comes as it emerges the number to be housed at the hotel has risen to 324 and that Serco Group PLC is involved, having been awarded the contract to provide immigration accommodation on behalf of the Home Office.
Councillor Lynn Williams, Blackpool Council Leader, said the Council had no choice but to take the action after the Home Office refused to give out information about the conditions asylum seekers would be living in following the announcement that the Hotel will be receiving 223 asylum seekers by the end of this week – a figure which has now risen to 324.
Councillor Williams said the Home Office and Serco Group PLC, which provides accommodation for asylum seekers on behalf of the Government, had been unable to allay concerns from the council, police, fire and ambulance authorities.
She said, ‘Our concerns escalated yesterday (Wednesday 8t September) following further meetings with the Home Office and Serco. We are not to be provided with any of the risk assessments that have been undertaken despite asking repeatedly for them to allay these concerns.Yesterday we gave notice to the Metropole and its owners that using the Metropole to house asylum seekers constitutes to a material change of use and planning permission is required before they proceed. If they do proceed we will issue a temporary stop notice immediately, which means if they continue to provide accommodation that is unlawful. This is a closure of a large hotel and conversion to a hostel and that requires planning consent. The Government knows the problems we have here with HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) and hostels and the impact on Blackpool, and yet we are expected to accept a very large HMO in the centre of Blackpool which is one of the most deprived areas of the country. We are not doing this out of lack of sympathy for the asylum seekers but because this is entirely the wrong place for these people.’