Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden has issued a statement regarding recent reports on the future use of the Dilkhusa Grand Hotel in Ilfracombe.
Councillor Worden says: “North Devon Council is involved in a number of schemes seeking to house refugees and asylum seekers. The highest profile of these is the Ukrainian scheme, but more recently the government has announced the Asylum Dispersal scheme. This is intended to take the pressure off local authorities in certain areas of the country, which are seeing huge demand to house asylum seekers.
The Asylum Dispersal Scheme is intended to spread the demand across other parts of the country, including the south west, by allocating a maximum number of asylum seekers to each area. The scheme is not yet operational in our area as we are awaiting a call with Clearsprings Ready Homes, the Home Office accommodation provider, over what number we might expect to receive in North Devon. All local authorities in Devon are in the same position and we have been assured that the scheme will not become operational in North Devon unless and until those discussions have taken place.
Last week, by chance and through local knowledge, we became aware of the potential use of the Dilkhusa Hotel in Ilfracombe to house people awaiting the results of asylum applications and in response we immediately contacted Clearsprings to establish the exact position. We have today been contacted by the Home Office – the first communication on this matter with the council – who informed us that the proposal is to use the hotel as an Asylum Contingency site. The Home Office now wishes to open a dialogue with the council and a meeting will be set up shortly. The Home Office has assured us that the hotel will not be stood up until that meeting has taken place.
We have already written to the Home Office and to Clearsprings raising significant concerns over the process that has been followed and the suitability of Ilfracombe for this type of accommodation. Ilfracombe is very remote from any support services and the loss of an operating hotel will have significant impacts on the local economy.
North Devon MP, Selaine Saxby, has raised similar concerns with Ministers and the Home Office directly and asked for an urgent and detailed consultation with North Devon Council.
“The council recognises the need to adequately house those that are in this unfortunate and difficult position and we are ready to assist where we can. However, we will continue to make very strong and very clear arguments as to why Ilfracombe simply is not suitable for this use and what impact a decision to use the hotel may have on the town and the area, especially given the particular challenges that North Devon faces with the current housing crisis. We will meet with the Home Office and hope that it reconsiders its position on this and will make sure that any information we can share will be shared with councillors and the public.”