Councils mount legal action at Home Office asylum hotel plans over fears for businesses

Asylum seekers outside the Novotel in Ipswich.
Credit: ITV News Anglia
More than 70 asylum seekers are being housed at the Novotel in Ipswich. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Councils in areas where asylum seekers are being housed in hotels are mounting legal action against the government, over concerns for the impact on people and businesses in their areas.

At least four authorities have taken action against the Home Office, which said it was working with councils to “find appropriate accommodation during this challenging time”.

It had previously said "record levels" of arrivals to the UK had put “unprecedented pressure” on the system, with conditions at immigration centres such as Manston in Kent under the spotlight in recent days.

But one council that took its case to the High Court, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said that it took action due to the “absence of any meaningful dialogue” with the Home Office.

The authority said it had secured an interim injunction in relation to one hotel in a “prime tourism location where there is a proposed use as a hostel for accommodating asylum seekers”, which is subject to a final hearing this month.

The council has also served a temporary stop notice on a hotel currently being used to house asylum seekers, but the notice has now expired, and the council is “considering further enforcement action”.

In a statement, the council said: “As a council representing our local community, we have always expressed our willingness to engage with the Home Office to find suitable properties to accommodate asylum seekers, but the absence of any meaningful dialogue or intention to follow due process by the Home Office has resulted in us pursuing this course of action."

The 105-room Novotel in Ipswich had been used to house asylum seekers. Credit: ITV News Anglia

East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Stoke City Council and Ipswich Borough Council are also taking legal action.

The Ipswich authority said it had been contacted by support services in the town concerned at such a large influx of new people needing their help.

Council leader David Ellesmere added: "We do have concerns about businesses in the area, that their trade is going to suffer as a result of this, from this loss of trade of people staying at the Novotel."

The High Court last week granted an emergency injunction to prevent the further use of the Novotel hotel in Grey Friars Road, Ipswich “or any other hotel within the borough as a hostel by accommodating asylum seekers”.

The authority said an estimated 70 people are currently at the hotel, and the injunction “does not apply to the asylum seekers who have already moved into the Novotel”.

“This is the latest stage in the council’s efforts to prevent the government from turning the hotel into a hostel for asylum seekers,” Ipswich Borough Council said.

“The council has always objected to the plan to do this and has made its position clear to the Home Office.”

Children playing inside the Manston immigration centre in Kent. Credit: PA

On Wednesday, lawyers for Stoke-on-Trent City Council appeared at the High Court in London to ask for a temporary injunction granted on 21 October to be extended after it was told the Home Office planned to use the North Stafford Hotel to house asylum seekers.

Jake Thorold, representing the local authority, told the court the plans would be a breach of planning rules and that it “cannot be right” that “the Home Office can choose to contract with any hotel that is willing to do so and move asylum seekers in breach of planning controls”.

Other authorities have raised concerns, with Tamworth Borough Council in Staffordshire saying a “decision by the Home Office to use a property in Tamworth for asylum seeker accommodation happened very quickly”.

In a Facebook post, the authority said: “A formal expression of concern was made to the Home Office for use of a local hotel due to its prominence in the town and impact on the tourism economy.”

A council spokesman said: “As yet, no decisions have been made about legal action.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who seek asylum and require accommodation has reached record levels, placing unprecedented pressures on the asylum system.

“The Home Office and partners identify sites for accommodation based on whether they are safe and available.

“While we accept that hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation, and we are working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation during this challenging time.”

The Local Government Association said it had been “raising increasingly urgent concerns with the Home Office on behalf of councils about the use of hotels for asylum seekers without adequate time for consulting or even sometimes informing the local council in advance”.

A spokesperson said: “Councils understand the pressures in the system but it is vital that they are given advanced notification so that they and their local partners can put in place the plans for the local services needed to support the new arrivals in their community, and to avoid creating any community tensions.”

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