Couple's wedding cancelled as Home Office uses Bedfordshire hotel to house refugees

The Old Palace, Dunstable
Credit: ITV News Anglia
The Old Palace Lodge in Dunstable is now housing asylum seekers. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A couple say they have been left devastated after their wedding reception was cancelled when the hotel they had booked took on a government contract to house asylum seekers.

The Old Palace Lodge in Dunstable in Bedfordshire has closed for business and called off all events until further notice as the Home Office continues to buy up hotel rooms to put up refugees.

James Proehl and his partner, Zoe Harbour, were due to be married in three months' time.

They had spent £8,000 to secure the venue and invited more than 200 people.

James Proehl, whose wedding at the Old Palace Lodge in Dunstable has been cancelled. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mr Proehl said: "We are devastated. Suddenly you're having to re-do everything.

"We've got a church service booked so the date can't be changed and we've got people flying from abroad and they've booked flight and hotels in the area.

"Now we are just contacting every possible venue, trying to find something that's in our price range and that's still available."

In a statement, the hotel bosses said that they had no choice but to take the Home Office up on their offer.

They said they were still recovering from losses incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic and were under pressure from increased energy bills, and this was the only way to keep the business financially viable.

South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous said that he tried to stop the Home Office from using the hotel - and instead use others that might "work better".

The Conservative MP said: "I was told about this a few weeks ago and I immediately went to the Home Office and said 'don't do it'.

"They've already taken another hotel on the outskirts of Dunstable and we need The Old Palace Lodge for tourists, for business travellers and for family events.

"I said 'please, please, please don't do it - there are other hotels which would work better.'

"The Home Office did not take account of any of that."

The Home Office told ITV Anglia that it wanted to stop using hotels to house asylum seekers but that could take time as there were are a record number of migrants arriving in the UK over the last few months.

Last year, councils in the Anglia region mounted legal action against the government, over concerns for the impact on people and businesses in their areas as the Home Office took over hotels to house migrants.

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