A hotel in Kingston has been repurposed by the Home Office as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers, as the government struggles to cope with a backlog of asylum claims.
A local residents’ association said it was worried about the lack of public consultation regarding the hotel, whose windows now bear signs saying it is “closed due to refurbishment”.
Member of Tricorn Residents Association Mr Williams said: “Residents are not ‘NIMBYs'[Not In My Back Yard] and appreciate these poor people need support, but Kingston Council seems to be falling over itself to support a policy that even the government admits it needs to stop. The council is failing to follow its own planning rules and is stonewalling residents’s legitimate questions.“
Kingston Council confirmed that the hotel had been commissioned to house up to 68 asylum seekers but said the Home Office process for identifying accommodation did not involve public consultation. The first cohort of 40 people arrived on October 13.
Tricorn residents are worried planning permission was breached by changing the purpose of the hotel to accommodation for asylum seekers, and was concerned about overcrowding and a lack of things for residents to do. Up to 68 asylum seekers are to be housed in the hotel’s 22 rooms.
But the council stated that no planning application had been breached as the hotel’s function had not changed and it still provides full board. It said residents did not have access to cooking facilities, but were supplied with three meals a day plus snacks. All rooms have ensuite facilities and access to other hotel facilities.
The council said it did not comment on the number of people housed in sites commissioned by the Home Office. However, the council said: “As part of the council’s due diligence, our Housing Service will carry out an assessment of accommodation and work with the Home Office to address any issues or concerns.”
Asylum arrangements at the hotel are managed by Clearsprings Ready-Homes, a housing service, commissioned by the Home Office, the council confirmed.
The Guardian has criticised Clearsprings through reports that exposed poor conditions in asylum accommodation in West London.
Clearsprings said it would not comment on the details of asylum seeker accommodation in a specific or general capacity.
The Home Office said it would not comment on arrangements for individual sites. In a statement, it said: “We continue to ensure the safe and secure accommodation which leaves no one destitute and is appropriate for an individual’s needs.”
According to the Home Office, as of April there were over 37,000 asylum seekers in hotels, costing the UK taxpayer £4.7 million a day.
Sky news has revealed how other councils have gone to the High Court to prevent block-booking hotels for asylum seekers.
Injunctions have been awarded to Ipswich Borough and Stoke City Council to temporarily put a pause on hotels beings used as asylum accommodation. In these cases, according to the Local Government Association, there was not prior consultation.
The council said it was working with local partners to support asylum seekers and link them to local support, including NHS Primary Care, school admission and Refugee Action Kingston.
Refugee Action Kingston said in a statement: “Refugee Action Kingston has a proud track record of giving support to those fleeing the horrors of life in their own country. We will continue to do so, wherever they are placed in the borough by the Home Office.”
Hotel customers have complained they were not kept informed.
Complaints on TripAdvisor and Google reviews from October 19 detail the experiences of Max Faxholm who arrived at the hotel to find it closed.
Faxholm said he had booked a room for his family only to find that it was out of use. He was left stranded and had to find immediate accommodation for his family.
It is not the first time a Kingston Hotel has been used to accommodate asylum seekers at short notice.
In 2021, a couple booked Kingston Lodge Hotel as their wedding venue, only to discover it had also been repurposed as asylum accommodation.
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