Home Office 'sorry' over plan to house 1,500 asylum seekers in Linton-on-Ouse

Linton on Ouse meeting
It was standing room only inside the village hall. Credit: ITV News
  • ITV News reporter Jonathan Brown reports on a packed public meeting called after plans were announced to house up to 1,500 asylum seekers in Linton-on Ouse

The monthly parish council meeting for Linton-on-Ouse had never been so busy.

Residents of the leafy village – eight miles outside of York – queued around the block on Thursday night to get in.

So much so that families were asked to send in a single representative as the village hall quickly filled to its capacity of 120.

The reason? Home Office proposals that could almost double the size of the village population within weeks.

At present home to fewer than 1,000 people, Linton is set to host a new asylum reception centre on the site of the village's former RAF base, which ceased operating in 2020.

The plan would initially see more than 500 single male asylum seekers, predominantly from countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Eritrea, brought to Linton while their asylum applications are processed.

It was revealed just last week as part of a raft of immigration measures – and apparently with almost no consultation.

Residents queued around the block to get into the meeting. Credit: ITV News

Even the local Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake knew little of the proposals. And many inside the village hall said they only found out through TV and local radio reports.

Phil Riley, the Home Office's director of immigration detention and escorting services, was the man in the firing line.

He told the crowd: "These things are incredibly sensitive... This was part of a wider package of measures that had to be announced together.

"I apologise for the way it’s come out."

Mr Riley went on to stress: "I'm content that we can manage this in a safe and appropriate way."

The former RAF base has been vacated over recent years. Credit: PA

The site, which could ultimately house as many as 1,500 men between the ages of 18 and 40, is due to be an open, but self-sufficient site – using existing accommodation vacated by RAF families, while creating on-site medical, faith and retail facilities to "minimise the impact" on local families.

But many residents remained unconvinced, voicing concerns over the potential need for additional security and policing as well as fears that their house prices could suffer.

Mr Hollinrake said at present there was no avenue to pursue compensation.

A mother of four, who lives in the village, prompted a round of applause after saying: "We are trying to further this community not destroy it and as I look at it now that’s what you are trying to do to us."

Another added: "I moved here six months ago for a quiet family life. I’ve got a four year old boy and a baby. Why do I have to feel like my family is a prisoner in their own home while everyone who comes here can do anything they want."

  • Cllr Marc Goddard said their had been 'absolutely no consultation'

Present at the event were several local politicians and charity representatives, including Councillor Mal Taylor from Hambleton and District Council, who told the Home Office officials it was "unforgivable" that they found out about the plans via the media.

He added: "It’s a material change of use and planning permission is required… I suggest you cease work and abide by planning laws."

The proposals were also described as "a terrible idea" by Refugee Action York.

Mr Hollinrake spoke several times about the need for proper talks with residents before any asylum seekers are moved on to the site, even suggesting locals could seek a judicial review over the decision.

He said: "It's incredibly important that we put a pause on this until we have that consultation in place."

When pressed on whether work has already started on the site, Mr Riley said the first service users could arrive in the coming weeks, while another Home Office official added: "We have started to look at some of the units on site to assess their feasibility to accommodate people safely."

The Home Office earlier said that the state of immigration affairs in the UK is "unsustainable" because it currently spends around £4.7 million every day on hotel accommodation for asylum seekers.

In a statement released before the meeting, a spokesperson added: "The asylum reception centre at Linton, North Yorkshire, is one of our many sites which will provide safe and self-sufficient accommodation for asylum seekers including provisions for healthcare, faith and other activities. Services onsite will minimise the impact on those provided to the local community.

"Anyone accommodated at Linton will have undergone a robust screening process, and the Home Office is committed to working closely with the local community to ensure the site operates safely and securely."

But for the time being, those assurances are doing little to assuage local anger.