Council threatens legal action over migrants being housed in seaside hotels
Another local authority has threatened legal action over hotel accommodation for asylum seekers, accusing the Home Office of consistently violating planning rules.
East Lindsey Borough Council has submitted a preliminary letter to the Home Office, calling the use of five hotels in Skegness to house migrants “causing significant damage” and saying it was done without consent.
The city council said it was considering conducting a legal review to stop what it says is the illegitimate use of hotels in “the main tourist area” of the city to house asylum seekers, which it says is hampering the region’s economy.
In a statement on its website, the Council said: “The Council’s letter argues that the Home Office has persistently, repeatedly and unlawfully encouraged and procured breaches of planning control by directing SERCO Group Plc to purchase hotel accommodation in Skegness for asylum seekers in the United Kingdom Kingdom.
“The Council’s case is that the use the Home Office is promoting is a substantial change of use requiring planning permission which has not been applied for or obtained.”
It has not confirmed how many migrants are being housed in the hotels, but in its statement the council said the shelters are placing a “significant and potentially unsustainable” strain on health services and could “undermine social cohesion”.
The agency said it had tried and failed to get assurances that the Home Office would no longer take hotels to accommodate asylum seekers in Skegness or the district as a whole, leading to the pre-writing.
Councilor Craig Leyland, Chair of East Lindsey District Council, said: “Skegness is the fourth most visited seaside resort in the UK. It depends on maintaining a thriving tourism economy, fueled by holidaymakers and people who choose to vacation in the city, and by day trippers.
“The unlawful use of hotels as hostels, in violation of planning guidelines, depletes the supply of accommodation for tourists and this use does not contribute to our reputation as a family holiday destination, which is an integral part of the local economy.
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“We understand the national pressure the Home Office is facing in finding suitable accommodation for asylum seekers in the UK, but we are calling for a halt to sourcing more hotels in Skegness and further east Lindsey.
“This preliminary letter indicates the Council’s intention to seek judicial review if the Home Office does not agree to halt the purchase of further hotels for hostel use unless authorized by the issuance of planning permission.”
East Lindsey will become the latest authority to examine legal action already taken by Fenland District Council in Cambridgeshire, North Northamptonshire Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Stoke City Council and Ipswich Borough Council.
Some have had their claims dismissed, but successful claims by Norfolk’s Great Yarmouth Borough Council resulted in a Supreme Court judge ruling that seafront hotels there cannot be used to house migrants.
Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness, has offered his support to the Council (Conservative Party/PA).
Matt Warman, Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, has also criticized the government’s “unacceptable and wholly unreasonable” move and offered his full support for the council to bring a legal challenge.
The news comes a day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to halt illegal immigration and Channel crossings in small boats, but gave no firm date for when that would be accomplished.
A Home Office spokesman said the department is working with local authorities as early as possible to ensure hotel arrangements are safe for both asylum seekers and local residents, and that hotels are short-term solutions as solutions are found for adequate distributed accommodation .
They said: “The number of people arriving in the UK seeking asylum and in need of housing has reached record levels, putting the asylum system under unprecedented pressure.
“The Home Office and partners identify locations for shelters based on whether they are safe and available.
“While we accept that hotels do not offer a long-term solution, they offer safe and clean accommodation and we are working hard with local authorities to find adequate accommodation at this challenging time.”
More than 37,000 asylum seekers are currently living in hotels costing the British taxpayer £5.6million a day, according to government figures.