Council opens public consultation on plans to turn Northop Hall into accommodation for 400 asylum seekers
Formal plans to convert Northop Hall Hotel into a hostel for 400 asylum seekers have now been submitted to Flintshire County Council and the public can have their say on the proposals.
The plans outline the proposed conversion of the hotel to accommodate 150 individuals within the existing building and the addition of modular units in the car park to house a further 250 people, all of whom will be single adult males.
The planning application represents the next step in plans to convert the hotel to housing for asylum seekers for a period of up to seven years.
If approved, this development would result in a significant population increase of nearly 25% for Northop Hall, which currently has a population of just over 1,800.
A group of residents from Northop Hall has formed an action group opposing the plans, citing various concerns about the proposed location.
Residents argue that the lack of adequate public transport, limited amenities such as a small convenience store and a single pub, and the absence of well-lit and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure would pose significant challenges.
They are particularly worried about the safety of both residents and asylum seekers who would need to navigate narrow, unlit country lanes without pavements to access and leave the village.
Moreover, the limited availability of activities and facilities in the area raises concerns about the well-being and mental health of those who would be resident, especially considering the potentially traumatic experiences that some asylum seekers may have endured.
The strain on local medical, dental, and mental health services, which are already stretched, could be exacerbated by accommodating a large number of individuals.
Additionally, the presence of a disproportionate number of adult single males raises concerns about potential social dynamics within the community.
The Northop Hall Hotel, which comprises 37 bedrooms and is situated amidst nine acres of private woodland and secluded gardens, ceased operations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was purchased by Na’ím Anís Paymán, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Paymán Investments.
Paymán intended to refurbish the hotel and reopen it in late 2022 as a wedding and events venue, aiming to revitalise it into a community hub, but that never happened.
ClearSprings Ready Homes (CRH), the company awarded the £334 million, 10-year Home Office Asylum Accommodation and Support Contract for Wales, is set to operate the proposed accommodation, if plans are given the go ahead.
A design and access statement submitted with the planning documents states the hotel will in essence be converted into a hostel.
“The use of hostels avoids the need to use operational hotels, provides dedicated on site staff and support, a high ratio of welfare, quality living, communal and external spaces, tv, wifi, 24 hr snack and beverages.
“Food would be centrally prepared and consumed around fellow service users provides (sic) a human experience.”
“Ratios of staff, levels of safeguarding, scrutiny, security (including the use of body cams and proof of presence security technology) would be high.” the design and access statement says.
According to the planning submission, single adult males have the lowest impact on community infrastructure, as they do not require schooling or access to certain health services.
Over 700 objections were submitted during pre-planning public consultation process earlier this year.
Concerns regarding the lack of facilities, amenities, and infrastructure in the village received the highest number of objections, with 225 responses highlighting this issue.
Safety concerns for both residents and asylum seekers received 173 objections, while objections related to healthcare services and their potential overload accounted for 145 responses.
The absence or inadequacy of public transport services also garnered significant concern, with 117 objections raised.
The planning documents also highlight the submission from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), which emphasises the need for assurance regarding the impact on healthcare services and urges engagement with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales.
The strain on healthcare services, infectious disease risks, and the lack of medical expertise and facilities in North Wales further complicate the situation.
Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales have raised concerns regarding the public sewerage system and access road, which fall into a flood zone.
The presence of protected species in the vicinity necessitates consultations with the Local Planning Authority’s ecologist for appropriate surveys.
In addition to the objections raised by Northop Community Council, the Hawarden Community Council has also submitted a strong objection to the plans.
They highlight the limited facilities, lack of transportation options, and strain on medical services in the village.
The council expresses concerns about the small size of the proposed site, potential fire hazards, and the need to protect the nearby stream and recreational areas.
They also mention the existence of a potential sister site at Plas Bellin, two miles away, which could accommodate over 400 family units on a rotating basis every three months – something Payman is yet to confirm.
People can view and comment on the plans here: https://planning.agileapplications.co.uk/flintshire/application-details/67258.
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