Residents in an East Yorkshire village have been successful in their campaign to prevent former student halls of residence being used to house more than 1,000 asylum seekers.
The sites in Cottingham, known as The Lawns and Ferens Hall, went up for sale, and the University of Hull was approached by the Home Office to buy the 40-acre site last month.
But today, the university made the decision not to sell the land to the government, after the proposal was met with much uproar amongst the local community, who felt that the village was not an appropriate place to home such a larger number of asylum seekers.
The move by campus bosses follows protests held in Cottingham as well as pushback against the government by local councillors and the area’s Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, David Davis.
Robin S Taylor
In a statement sent to GB News, the University of Hull set out that it will not sell The Lawns and Ferens Hall property to the Home Office or to any other purchaser who advises that their intention is to use the site for accommodation for the Home Office.
Commenting on the decision, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull, Professor Dave Petley said: “We have listened closely to the feedback from the community and, following constructive conversations with members of the community, regional MPs, the Police, the NHS, local authorities and other key stakeholders, we have taken this decision based on the concerns which have been raised.
“At its heart, the University is committed to playing a positive role in the community and it is crucial that we listen and respond to the needs of local people.
“While the University still intends to sell the property, we will continue to engage with key stakeholders in the region to determine a financially viable alternative for The Lawns and Ferens Hall that reflects the communities’ priorities.”
It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that as a cost cutting measure, the government is proposing to use former student halls of residence along with former military camps and holiday parks as an alternative to housing asylum seekers in hotels.
But it seems that the Home Office agree that the The Lawns and Ferens Hall sites in Cottingham are not suitable for this purpose, as it also today confirmed that it will not be taking forward any proposals to procure the Lawns and Ferens Hall for accommodation.
A government spokesman also said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels due to the unacceptable rise in small boat arrivals and our commitment to accommodate those from Afghanistan.
“Every day the hotel bill for accommodating more than 45,500 asylum seekers and over 9,200 Afghans is £6.8 million, and the British public rightly expect that we reduce these costs as quickly as possible.
“We continue to look at all available options to source appropriate and cost-effective temporary accommodation.”
In response to the scrapped proposals, Cottingham residents have told GB News of their relief that the sale of the land to house asylum seekers is no longer going ahead.
Louise Akester was part of the campaign to oppose the plans and said: “I think I’m still in shock to be quite honest because it all happened so fast, but I think most of all, I feel proud that we did it.
“I have connections to the village – I shop there, drink there, and have family that live there but didn’t even know it [the proposed sale to the Home Office] was happening until I saw an advert for public meeting to discuss it last week.
“I couldn’t believe it was being discussed and considered, but I went along and got involved with the discussion and heard the residents who were lost and afraid and didn’t know where to turn.
“The opposition to the halls being used to house asylum seekers was the pressure on the village community, a lot of residents are elderly, they were concerned about their doctors appointments and getting their prescriptions.
“There were also safeguarding concerns around the halls being close to children at the nearby high school.
“We don’t know who they [the asylum seekers] are, and what they are capable of, I’m not saying they are all bad, but we don’t know anything about them.”
Robin S Taylor
The concerns come after the current use of former University of Hull student residence which is already being used to house up to 200 people awaiting a decision on their asylum applications
Thwaite Hall in Cottingham is now under private ownership which is already being used to house people awaiting a decision on their asylum applications.
But it emerged in June last year that as many as 30 male asylum seekers who were staying in the accommodation left and never returned.
There were fears that this could happen on a larger scale in Cottingham, should more land be sold, as asylum seekers are not detained at the centre, but under certain conditions which mean they should notify authorities if they move or find their own accommodation.
Speaking about this, Cottingham local Louise Akester told GB News: “One lady in the village told me she doesn’t now want to go out and walk her dog at night because of the asylum seekers at Thwaite Hall who can be intimidating as they hang around in groups.
“We don’t know about background of the asylum seekers, there’s nothing on file to where they are, and with 30 men that were then just gone at Thwaite Hall, who knows how many would up and leave if more than 1,000 came to the sites that are up for sale.
“I think the worry is that it takes just one bad apple amongst them and nobody knows who they are.”
Louise had a big part in organising a protest at the weekend against the use of the halls for asylum seeker accommodation and is pleased that the proposals are no longer going ahead.
“I’m over the moon about, I’ve been grinning ear to ear,” she said.
“I’m proud community of how the community came together and it just goes to show that there’s power in numbers.”