February 14, 2024 4.15 pm

‘One is one too many’: Skegness MP hopes to shut down last asylum seeker hotel

He also spoke about the recent Bronson Battersby tragedy and the proposed National Grid pylon project

By Local Democracy Reporter

MP Matt Warman is hoping to close the last hotel in Skegness used for housing asylum seekers, pointing out the lack of necessary support for them.

At a community meeting at Bateman’s Brewery in Wainfleet, the Conservative MP said that the seaside resort “will always be the wrong place” for hotels accommodating migrants, following announcements that all but one will shut down after April.

In 2021, five hotels in the town became temporary homes for hundreds of asylum seekers, leading to protests by far-right groups.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Initially, there was hope that they would be relocated to RAF Scampton following the Home Office’s announcement to convert the former airbase into an asylum centre. However, this did not materialise. Consequently, many hotel owners expressed concerns about a potentially disappointing summer season, worried that the presence of migrants might deter tourists.

The situation escalated when Saad Gomaa, 34, was accused of raping a woman in Tower Gardens in June. The Egyptian national faced trial at Lincoln Crown Court, where he was ultimately acquitted of all charges, insisting that the encounter was consensual and that the drunk woman had initiated it.

In January, East Lindsey District Council announced that the situation was “now drawing to a close,” with all but one of the hotels set to close by April. However, Skegness MP maintains that even one hotel housing asylum seekers is too many.

“We are in the process of changing the law, we have massively sped up the processing of applications and we have closed all but one of the hotels. That is progress, but it is still not enough,” he said.

“One is ultimately one too many. Skegness will always be the wrong place for hotels housing asylum seekers.”

The Conservative MP added: “It’s huge progress. I think people are widely aware that there are fewer hotels, and they’re glad of it. But we’ve also now got to turn our attention to what returning those hotels with their proper use looks like.”

Skegness has captured widespread attention recently after the distressing discovery of two-year-old Bronson Battersby, who died of starvation beside his father. The father had died from a heart attack over Christmas in their home on Prince Albert Avenue.

One week later, the body of 23-year-old Petra Ross was found near the Gibraltar Point nature reserve. A 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of her murder but was later released on bail.

Gibraltar Point nature reserve, Skegness | Photo: James Turner

Following these incidents, Skegness residents and business owners have reported feeling “scared to go out at night,” with some also citing a series of local stabbings.

Addressing these concerns, Mr Warman noted: “I think the reality for Skegness is that we still get hundreds of thousands of people coming every year. They’re coming as tourists because it’s a great place to visit and because it’s got all of the vibrancy that has been attractive for centuries.

“That said, we have to tackle both the reality and the underlying problems that come with the deprivation that we saw with the Bronson case.

“Some of it is about saying, look, there’s a good reason why people come here, there’s a good reason why businesses are really successful.

“But when you hear people expressing concerns that reflect genuinely how they feel, I think it’s down to councillors, myself, and businesses to say, you know what, actually, the crime rates here mean that you shouldn’t be feeling those things, and we’ve got to demonstrate that. It’s a hard balance because you can never tell people how to feel.”

The former Minister of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, together with other Lincolnshire leaders, recently voiced criticism of National Grid’s proposed Grimsby to Walpole pylon plan. They highlighted concerns that the project would leave a “permanent scar” on the county’s beautiful landscape.

The proposed route | Image: National Grid

The news has prompted the launch of several petitions by concerned residents throughout the county, including one by 21-year-old Tabitha Siddorn from Beesby, near Alford.

Ms Siddorn described the proposed route as “disheartening,” highlighting the picturesque nature of her small village. She added: “It’s not actually bringing anything to Lincolnshire, it’s power for London. They are going to be destroying wildlife and ruining the future of agriculture.”

Warman urged local residents to participate in the ongoing consultation to voice their concerns to the firm, stating: “Right now, we are at a very early stage in a consultation process. What needs to happen is for people to make it very clear that they don’t think this scheme is the right scheme and that there are better options available.

“At this stage, no decisions have been made. It’s my job, and it’s the job of everyone who cares about this, to make their views known.”

He further noted that opting for underground cables in the proposed scheme would lead to a substantial increase in costs. According to National Grid’s estimates, implementing the plan with overhead pylons would cost around £1.74 billion, while the underground alternative would surge to £6.54 billion.

“The reality is this is a huge amount of additional spend, that will in part come from government, but also in a large part come on people’s electricity bills. People do have to ask themselves, what do they feel is the right way of doing this?

“There are no straightforward answers in this because government’s money is all our money. And our bills are all our money, right? So there isn’t a free version of this.”