Protest and counter-protest planned over controversial asylum seeker plan for Wigan hotel

A demonstration by those opposing the housing of asylum seekers at Wigan’s swankiest hotel is to be mounted.
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And it has also been revealed that a counter-protest will be staged by those fearing the Kilhey Court controversy could be hijacked by the far right.

There was widespread condemnation last week when Wigan Today exclusively revealed the Standish-based venue, run by Macdonalds Hotels and Resorts, is closing to customers on September 9 because of a deal with the Home Office and its asylum seeker accommodation contractor Serco.

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Objections include the fact that Standish already houses asylum seekers at the Britannia Hotel and that Kilhey is too remote from local amenities for the new arrivals.

Macdonald Kilhey Court Hotel is scheduled to close to guests on September 9 to begin welcoming asylum seekers insteadMacdonald Kilhey Court Hotel is scheduled to close to guests on September 9 to begin welcoming asylum seekers instead
Macdonald Kilhey Court Hotel is scheduled to close to guests on September 9 to begin welcoming asylum seekers instead

And that’s not to mention staff who have lost their jobs and customers – including wedding couples – who’ve suddenly faced having to make 11th hour alternative arrangements.

Ince and Scholes independent councillor Maureen O’Bern is behind the protest which was originally planned to take place outside the hotel but, on police advice, was switched to Standish Market Place at noon on Sunday September 3.

In a Facebook Post, Coun O’Bern wrote: “This is a protest at which the people of Standish and Wigan will be able to peacefully voice their opposition to the plans. Organised groups from either the far right or far left are NOT welcome.”

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But Wigan Stand Up to Racism (Stur) does think the far right will have a hand in the demo and intends to hold a counter-protest.

A spokesman said: “The decision to change the role of Khiley Court Hotel is not the responsibility of refugees and they should not be the focus of people’s anger .

"This is why Stur is opposed to the anti-refugee rally on September 3.

"The Government want to encourage the idea that desperate people in small boats, fleeing war, poverty, oppression and climate chaos are to blame for the current social and economic crisis.”

But Coun O’Bern says her campaign is against the inappropriateness of the premises. She posted that parts of Kilhey Court were in a poor state of repair and suggested that Macdonald – which has already admitted that the asylum seeker plan is a commercial decision – will get an upgrade at taxpayers’ expense before eventually reverting to its former use.

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Wigan Council and local MP Lisa Nandy have both written letters of objection to the Home Office.

So too has Standish Conservative councillor Ray Whittingham who said: “Standish has a track record in supporting anyone in need of help. However, housing immigrants in this hotel is just not acceptable.

"It would be like putting them in prison. It is simply unfair for anyone to be placed in this hotel with absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go day or night.”

He said the hotel is in the sparsest area of Standish; there is no footpath on the hotel side of the road and only a narrow overgrown footpath opposite the hotel; one street light (300m away); high speed traffic; limited public transport; no amenities in easy walking distance: two care homes next to the hotel for the elderly and infirm and a new one under construction; three dangerously deep and extremely cold reservoirs to the rearl limited police; and the local medical practice at capacity due to so much new housing.

Kilhey Court is actually in the Aspull, New Springs and Whelley ward, and local Labour councillor Chris Ready has his objections too.

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He said: “We are welcoming to asylum seekers and my principal concern in this is for their welfare.

"Government policy on this matter is supposed to aim at integration and while there have been issues with the Britannia there have also been successes and it is far better placed for integration than Kilhey Court.

"Asylum seekers at Kilhey are going to be totally isolated.

"I don’t think a demonstration though is going to achieve anything other than to whip up the far right.”