Kilhey Court: council letter to the Home Office gives long list of reasons for asylum accommodation U-turn
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The correspondence itemises a long list of reasons why the grade II listed Standish venue is wholly inappropriate for such purposes.
Wigan Today exclusively revealed last week that Macdonald Hotels and Resorts had decided on a drastic and sudden change of direction for the premises, making staff redundant, closing its facilities to the public and cancelling future engagements including weddings as of September 9.
The move has caused widespread upset and uproar, not least because it is felt that Standish is already doing enough for asylum seekers thanks to another Home Office/Serco accommodation arrangement at the Britannia Hotel, Almond Brook, little more than two miles away.
Macdonalds has called the plan a temporary one which was made for economic reasons as the hospitality industry is still suffering the after-effects of Covid lockdowns and from the current cost of living crisis.
But there has been no shortage of opposition to the project, with politicians of various different hues joining local MP, a residents’ group and many individuals calling for a re-think.
And Wigan Council, which does not have powers to block or approve the scheme, was one of the first to voice concerns.
Its letter to the Home Office reads: “Wigan borough remains committed to supporting those who are vulnerable and have demonstrated this commitment particularly in the last few years however, we feel that Kilhey Court Hotel is not suitable for the use you intend and that our local services are already stretched beyond capacity with the high numbers of asylum seekers we already have in the borough.
“We are writing to urge that you reconsider the use of this second hotel facility as a matter of urgency.”
It then itemises key concerns about the positioning of Kilhey Court:
No local amenities within walking distance;
Limited public transport;
National speed limit on the main road outside the hotel;
No pavement on the hotel side of the road;
No street lighting;
It is within the same grounds as two residential homes for the elderly;
There are large water forms to the rear and side of the hotel (namely Worthington Lakes).
Regarding wider issues, the letter adds: “Our concerns remain the same as those set out in previous correspondence but are now considerably increased with this recent proposal:
The safety of the surrounding community, and need to reduce heightened and growing community tensions;
The ongoing safety and security of the asylum seeker population, the hotel and Serco staff, and of council and partner staff supporting the hotel;
The history of extremist groups’ interest in using this arrangement as a platform to incite hatred and racial unrest. Given Kilhey Court is positioned on the border with Lancashire, we also need to consider the extremist groups operating in this area as well;
The heightened potential for protests and civil unrest;
The wider implications for our dispersed asylum seeker population, and the impact of wider community tensions and unrest on residents from ethnic minority groups;
And the potential for increased criminal behaviour and the impact this will have on all the above, which is fully supported by Greater Manchester and Lancashire Police.