Home Office shelves plans to house asylum seekers in Southport Pontins

Sefton council understands Ainsdale site no longer under consideration after objections about access and impact on tourism

Asylum seekers will not be housed in a Pontins holiday park in north-west England, according to reports.

The facility outside Southport, Merseyside, was reportedly being looked at by the Home Office as an alternative to hotels in which to house asylum seekers waiting for their claims to be assessed.

The BBC reported that Sefton council understands the Home Office is no longer considering the Pontins site for its plans. “We have been informed that the Home Office no longer wishes to pursue plans to house asylum seekers at the Pontins site in Ainsdale. We are awaiting written confirmation of this decision,” a council spokesperson told the BBC.

The authority is understood to have raised a number of objections, including the logistics of accessing the site and the impact on tourism.

Ministers are keen to end the reliance on hotels to house asylum seekers, which the government says is costing £6.8m a day. The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, is hunting for larger alternative sites that would be cheaper, including former university accommodation, holiday parks such as Pontins, and surplus military sites like the controversial Napier barracks in Kent.

But the Home Office’s first attempt to set up such a centre, at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire, stalled after local opposition, including from Conservative politicians, and the threat of legal challenges. Since then no other firm plans have emerged.

A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC: “The number of people arriving in the UK who require accommodation has reached record levels due to the unacceptable rise in small boat arrivals and our commitment to accommodate those from Afghanistan. We therefore continue to look at all available options to source appropriate and cost-effective temporary accommodation.”

Last week, details of a £70m contract to put asylum seekers into accommodation centres was published by the Home Office.

In December, the Home Office added the £70m project to its procurement pipeline, the mechanism it says provides a formal look at its “anticipated outsourcing activity over the next 24 months”.

Officials aim to run a “mini-competition” for the contract to design, build or renovate these centres and to manage them. The programme is due to run from June.


Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

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