Locals vow to fight plans to house 400 asylum seekers in former hotel

Locals vow to fight plans to house 400 asylum seekers in a restored Victorian hotel wedding venue that would increase village’s population by up to a quarter

  • Home Office plans to house around 150 ‘male refugees’ in an old wedding venue
  • Another 250 would be housed in other accommodation nearby in north Wales

A tiny village with a population just 1,500 is fighting plans to house 400 asylum seekers in a country hotel.

Home Office officials want to use the former wedding venue as base for refugees with 150 men inside the hotel itself and 250 more in temporary accommodation in the car park.

Owners of the restored Victorian mansion – which features stained glass windows, a Canadian pine staircase, panelled walls and period fireplaces – are set to apply for permission for its change of use.

But villagers in the picturesque Northop Hall, near Mold, North Wales, are united in their opposition against the move – and say it is the ‘wrong plan’ in the ‘wrong place’.

Chairman of Northop Hall Community Council, John Gollege, said he was in ‘total shock’ when he heard about the plans.

The proposals would see around 150 ‘predominantly male’ refugees put up in a disused country house hotel, in Northop Hall, north Wales (file image of Northop Hall in north Wales)

He said: ‘400 single males will increase the total population of the village by 25 per cent. I can’t believe there will not be a drain on community facilities which are already over extended.’

He said people would have ‘nowhere to go’ as there were only three bus services to the village each day.

Neighbouring businesswoman Gill Davies said the idea of 400 men in the village was ‘nerve-racking’.

Gill, who runs a cattery, said if the plans were approved ‘life would change completely’.

‘It would be quite nerve-racking walking around. 400 men is quite a big number to think about.’

Kate Banjo says the hotel would not be big enough to hold 150 people in the hotel’s 77 rooms.

She said: ‘My concern is there would be people… 400 men who we don’t know.. They could be from the local town, they could be from Mold, it doesn’t matter.’

She said she was also worried about the mental health of the would-be residents living in a small area where ‘there’s nothing here.’

The Welsh Refugee Council also opposed the plans saying the hotel was not a fit site for the asylum seekers.

It said the residents ‘fleeing war and persecution and must be treated with dignity and respect while their asylum claims are processed’.

The organisation added: ‘Squeezing people into bad accommodation is negligent and produces poor health outcomes, as seen in Penally Barracks and Manston.

‘We are also concerned about the location, far away from any services and transport links, which is a further barrier to people rebuilding their lives in Wales. Asylum seekers deserve the right to adequate and suitable housing.’

Local independent MP Rob Roberts has written to Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick asking for the site to be ruled out and raised the issue in the House of Commons.

The hotel closed its doors during the first lockdown in 2020 and was sold last year to Paymán Holdings 3 Ltd.

A pre-application consultation on the hotel plans has been re-opened until 17 May after which the company intends to submit a formal planning application to Flintshire council.

The Home Office said: ‘These accommodation sites will house asylum seekers in basic, safe and secure accommodation as they await a decision on their claim.

‘We understand the concerns of local communities and will work closely with councils and key partners to manage the impact of using these sites, including liaising with local police to make sure appropriate arrangements are in place.’

Flintshire council said pre-application consultations were run and managed by applicants and it had not received a formal planning application.

Before it closed the hotel had a four star review on review site TripAdvisor where a description read: ‘Welcome to the Northop Hall Country House Hotel, nestled in nine acres of private woodland and secluded gardens.

Northop Hall Country House Hotel is a beautifully restored Victorian mansion in the heart of North Wales.

‘Built-in 1872 by the Watkinson family, the property retains many of its original features including exquisite stained glass windows, a sweeping Canadian pine staircase, intricately panelled walls and grand period fireplaces.

‘With an abundance of natural wildlife, in an area of rural tranquillity, Northop Hall is the perfect countryside retreat for those looking for a home-from-home welcome.’

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