January 6, 2023 8.30 am This story is over 15 months old

Council would consider further legal action over caravan parks being used to house asylum seekers, leader confirms

“Strong message” in place said MP

East Lindsey District Council would consider taking legal action over the use of caravan parks to house asylum seekers, the leader has confirmed.

Meanwhile, Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman has said there is no suitable alternative within his constituency as he fights to stop hotels being used.

He said the council, MPs and residents had set “as strong a set of markers down as we possibly can” to warn the government off further changes in the town.

ELDC on Thursday sent a letter to the Home Office warning that it was considering a Judicial Review following the success of a similar bid by Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

The authority argued that the five hotels currently being used to house asylum seekers had been done so without getting planning permission and that the move had caused “substantial harm” to the town’s tourism and reputation.

Leaders argue it has also placed a “potentially unsustainable burden on providers of primary healthcare” and threatened to undermine social cohesion.

Alongside disused military bases, the government has recently suggested that it could look at caravan parks.

Hundreds attended a meeting at the Storehouse about Skegness asylum seekers in hotels | Photo: LDRS/Lincolnite

However, following the publication of the letter, ELDC leader Councillor Craig Leyland said that would just raise the “same issues”.

“You’d be talking about taking establishments out of the tourism infrastructure,” he said.

“Part of the issue with all this is the pressure on health services – that doesn’t go away.

“Especially in East Lindsey where we have an issue about which caravan sites could be used anyway because of flood risk. There’s a closed season when these sites have to be emptied so it wouldn’t be a long-term solution by any means and one that I wouldn’t really want to see pursued by the government.”

He said it would trigger the same response as if a hotel was used.

Councillor Leyland said he had received a number of contacts who had reported cancelled bookings and was aware of wider anecdotal evidence of similar situations.

He said the council was keeping a watching brief on all legal actions that had been taken and was considering various options in respect of the existing hotels, though would not be drawn on what those were at this time.

MP for Boston and Skegness Matt Warman.

Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman said legally the government’s use of hotels had been a “messy” situation with several failed legal challenges. However, the Great Yarmouth council bid – specific to a seafront location designated as such from a planning point of view – was identical in many ways to Skegness.

“Therefore, you are able to say clearly that moving from a hotel that is open to holidaymakers to one that isn’t, in the way that the assigned hotels for asylum seekers have been, is contravening a democratically decided planning decision, and the courts have agreed with that.

“It’s a really positive step that it does demonstrate that locally elected politicians are able to character defend the character of the places that they represent.”

He the governments main priority was to try to stop the use of hotels altogether now.

Asked if there were any alternative locations in his constituency that could be used, he said “no”.

“I don’t have a former military bases that have been no longer used by the military and are being re-purposed I don’t have any sort of significantly disused holiday parks,” he said.

However, he could not speak for the wider Lincolnshire area.

He did not expect any further surprises in the form of new hotels being used by the government.

He told reporters: “What we’ve done is put as many and as strong a set of markers down as we possibly can.

“You’ve got the council taking this potential legal action, you’ve got me talking to the Prime Minister, you’ve got other members of parliament talking to other ministers.

“[This is a] very strong signal that Skegness is not the right place to see more people seeking asylum.”