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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Blackpool's Proposed Immigrant Hostel - An Update

John Woodman

While work continues on completing the street running tramway to North Station from North Pier and the Promenade - a further development alongside the new tram junction has just been announced. Britannia Hotels, owner and operator of the Metropole Hotel, have signed off on making the hotel available to house immigrants arriving in the UK - with up to 268 assigned to accommodation in this classic Blackpool building on the seafront. The hotel's historic role and site notwithstanding, money talks and government subsidies assure guaranteed revenue over successive months.

Update September 10, 2021 A large objection has been placed ahead of the plans of the Home Office and its subservient contractor SERCO, and the only too happy to please owners of the Metropole (currently) Britannia Hotels. Understandably Blackpool residents and business owners are not amused at the immediacy of a historic town centre hotel being given over to Home Office contracted delivery of illegal immigrants occupancy. Whilst the Home Secretary is busy setting about ordinances permitting government patrol vessels to force boats carrying aliens over the Channel from France to land on UK shores, SERCO has been busy arranging with Britannia Hotels to create accommodation for landed illegals in a Blackpool seafront hotel facing directly onto the Cenotaph and North Pier.

Blackpool Council have sprung to life to enforce requirement for ' Change of Use' application to be first submitted by the hotel operator, thus forestalling a fait accompli by the company and Home Office contracted service provide - SERCO which would have seen up to 280 unauthorised immigrants to be transferred to the hotel in the immediate future. Furthermore the Council are indicating that any such application is unlikely to gain Council approval rendering change of use unviable for its sponsors. Both of the town's MPs have registered their own concerns in a growing opposition to the methods of both Britannia Hotels and metropolitan based consultants. Given the ever lengthening history of complaints from visitors unwittingly rendering themselves open to the questionable comforts of Britannia's properties in Blackpool - this latest episode offering a landmark historic building in the heart of the resort to house illegal immigrants under contract to the Home Office - indicates need for enforcement of heritage status on the Metropole property going forward. Possibly to further embrace the Norbreck 'Hydro' and 'Savoy' properties which retain landmark features from their origins.

Blackpool's hotels have been previously used to house transferred civil servants en bloc from their Ministry departments in 1939 and 1940 - with long term benefit to the Fylde coast through the establishment of permanent 'back office' operations up to the present time. Utilising large hotels to accommodate unauthorised immigrants arriving in the UK without official sanction or papers is however a much bigger leap of faith by central government. Particularly so when their accommodation takes the form of classic 19th century historic hotel properties on the seafront of a popular resort. Just when and if local Council approval for this latest influx has been forthcoming remains to be seen.

Rumour has it that other Britannia properties on the seafront may well be similarly made available for additional numbers of unsought immigrants into the UK - with the Norbreck Hydro high on the list of possibles. The operator has the unwelcome label of attracting the largest number of complaints from customers, of any UK hotel chain. Frequent online postings on social media and other sites attest to the low level of service and quality offered in its properties, with Blackpool's portfolio attracting incessant criticism over cleanliness of rooms. Ever keen to assure forward bookings and revenue - the option to lease or otherwise make available the Metropole to a Government agency charged with housing illegal arrivals in Britain has proved a win win solution for both Government and the operator. What this will do for the resort's medium and long term image or that of its town centre - is an open question.

The consequences for local NHS and social services are dire, given that Blackpool has already more than its share of dislocated and needy transients. The town centre is having to face 'levelling down' of its infrastructure and social offer - in spite of constant redevelopment forecasts. This latest announcement courtesy of Britannia Hotels bottom line is a slap in the face for the local authority already engaged in providing housing to Syrian and other refugees. One wonders whether we will see online postings from the new Metropole incumbents complaining over the cleanliness of their new seafront 'digs'.


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