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Families fight plans to house 482 asylum seekers in Staffordshire flats

Controversial plans to convert a former student residence into temporary accommodation for asylum seekers have been filed. The application, submitted by Serco, was posted on the Stafford Borough Council website earlier this week and received more than 20 objections within 24 hours. But there were also letters of support.

Serco manages accommodation for asylum seekers on behalf of the Home Office and does not currently house any asylum seekers in the Stafford area. StokeonTrentLive revealed last month that Stafford Court, based on the former Beaconside campus of the University of Staffordshire, is intended to provide more than 400 beds.

There would be 160 initial accommodation beds, providing emergency short-term places for asylum seekers who need a place to stay before their requests for assistance can be assessed. A further 322 places would provide longer-term “dispersed accommodation” while claimants wait for their asylum claims to be fully determined, which could take months or years.

READ: ‘There were scenes I hope never to see again’ – Family who fled Ukraine arrive in North Staffordshire

Serco’s consultation website stated: “The existing layout of the building at Stafford Court is ideal to accommodate this type of installation. The building offers self-contained units providing flexibility and the ability to offer occupant protection without any external building modifications required.

“The existing parking layout provides ample secure parking space for transport, staff and visitors and under the terms of any lease granted, Serco would have exclusive use of 30 parking spaces adjacent to Stafford Court. Once operational, a shuttle service would be made available to those staying in the accommodation to enable travel to and from nearby appointments and town centres.

The Weston Road building was sold by the University of Staffordshire in 2014 and most accommodation has remained vacant since.

Opponents fear that Stafford Court is located near a number of schools. There are also fears that crime is on the rise in the area, along with noise and anti-social behavior.

A resident of Ascot Road said: ‘I have two children who go to schools nearby. The crime rate will increase in our region. I fear for the safety of my children now.

A resident of Baswich Lane said: ‘The area chosen is not suitable to accommodate adult male asylum seekers. It is located right next to schools, police headquarters and an affluent housing estate.

“The infrastructure in the local area is already under significant pressure and it is common knowledge that homeless Staffordians who wish to stay here are sent to temporary accommodation in Birmingham as there is no social housing available. for the required number. This problem must be solved as a matter of priority.

“What do these men have to offer the local community? There’s nothing nearby for them to deal with and a similar scheme in Cannock has led to a spike in crime. Stafford is quite the wrong place for this type of misguided act of charity.

A Bayswater Square resident said: ‘An occupancy of 482 people in such a small space, particularly when there is nothing else to do, will invite group gatherings, which in turn leads to intimidation of local residents and concerns about increased noise and the possibility of increased crime rates. I am also concerned about the suitability of having this development located less than 100m from two schools.

“Having a condensed population in a small area also encourages ghetto-like developments. A better option would be to disperse them throughout the city to encourage integration into the community rather than segregation on the outskirts of town.

There are also concerns about the potential impact on local services. A resident of John Amery Drive said: ‘It’s on the way to a high school – not a suitable place for it.

“Stafford is destitute enough and doesn’t have a lot of prospects for the people who already live here. We don’t have enough doctors or school places for the people who already live here and the hospital can’t cope.

A Widecombe Avenue resident said: ‘Resources like hospitals are already stretched thin. While it’s terrible why they’re seeking asylum, Stafford needs to put in place better infrastructure to deal with any additional pressure.

A resident of Norton Canes said: ‘Surely this property could be used to help the homeless. Or the land could be used to create more homes for younger buyers struggling to get on the property ladder, or perhaps even single parents or people struggling financially. Why give help before helping his own?

But a Sandon Road resident said: “I support this bid. Buildings are not being used and we should look for ways to support those who need it most. »

Serco said on its consultancy website: ‘Through our close cooperation with local law enforcement authorities, we are advised that crime has not increased in areas where any of our properties are located. Serco advises people staying in our accommodation not to gather in groups, as we are aware that some members of the local community may perceive this as disturbing.

“We do not expect noise levels to be significantly high and as the property will be occupied 24 hours a day this will be closely managed.”

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