Council leader responds to calls to oppose asylum seeker plan at former prison

The leader of Rother District Council has responded to a petition calling for the council to oppose plans for Northeye <i>(Image: Sussex News and Pictures)</i>
The leader of Rother District Council has responded to a petition calling for the council to oppose plans for Northeye (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

A council leader has responded to calls for the local authority to oppose plans to house asylum seekers at a former prison.

The Home Office was considering placing more than 1,000 asylum seekers at Northeye on the outskirts of the town.

However, it is now considering using the site to house people who have arrived illegally in the UK.

No firm decisions have been made and the original proposal to use the site for non-detained accommodation for asylum seekers also remains open, Rother District Council previously said.

Leader of the council Councillor Doug Oliver said he “understands and shares the concerns of local people about the potential impact on the community and local services” if the scheme goes ahead.

He made a statement in response to a petition urging the council to oppose the plans.

“We’re particularly aware of the impact on those residents who live near the site, and we’ve been working with stakeholders to assess the potential impact on the local community and services,” he said.

“This has been a difficult task as the Home Office is still in the assessment stages – no decision has been made and there are still so many unanswered questions.

“What we do know is that the sale of the site has not yet been completed and survey work is still being undertaken. We also know that the Home Office is still considering either using the site as an open facility for up to 1,200 men or as a centre for detention purposes only.”

Cllr Oliver urged the government to “provide answers” to the council’s many questions on the proposals.

He said the council still does not know if the site will be used as a detained or non-detained facility or if it will be used at all, how many people or who will be accommodated, when work will begin on site, how long it will take and what kind of accommodation will be built.

“We also don’t know if we – as local planning authority – will be determining any future planning application about the site, how long the facility will be used for or what will happen to the site in the longer-term,” he said.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve seen greater engagement from the Home Office with local stakeholders; this is welcomed, and we’ll push for this to continue.

“Let me be very clear – we remain committed to seeking to ensure that any use of Northeye is lawful and acceptable and that the views of the local community are heard by all bodies responsible for making decisions about the site.”