Earnley Parish Council to object to asylum-seeker plans

More than 200 local residents attended Earnley Parish Council's extraordinary planning meeting. All pictured by Eddie Mitchell

More than 200 local residents attended Earnley Parish Council's extraordinary planning meeting. All pictured by Eddie Mitchell

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Well over 200 people turned out to watch Earnley Parish Council chose to formally object to plans to turn Earnley Concourse into a centre for asylum-seekers.

The council will lodge its objection in the coming days and its decision means the change of use planning application will have to be discussed by Chichester District Council’s planning committee.

Parish council planners have decided to object to the application for Earnley Concourse

Parish council planners have decided to object to the application for Earnley Concourse

It is understood it will go before district planners in early February.

Last night’s planning meeting was so packed that some were forced to stand outside of Birdham Village Hall and at the end there was an ‘overwhelming’ show of support for the council’s decision.

Earnley Parish Council chairman Keith Martin said: “We called the extraordinary planning meeting to discuss the application for Earnley Concourse.

“There were well over 200, some had to stand outside because they couldn’t get into the hall. Around half were from the parish of Earnley and the rest were from neighbouring parishes.

Planning Committee chairman Chris Charter said the council was 'aware of the emotions the application has caused'

Planning Committee chairman Chris Charter said the council was 'aware of the emotions the application has caused'

“The meeting was very orderly, we had no unacceptable comments from members of the public, all the discussion was around planning issues.

“After the parish council had closed the meeting, having made the decision to oppose the application, we took a vote by way of a show of hands and there was overwhelming public support for the council’s decision to oppose it.”

Among the reasons for the council’s objection included insufficient information on transport links, the negative impact on local economy and the impact on the village’s amenities.

Around 400 people live in the parish with 150 of those in Earnley itself, meaning the population of the village could be more than doubled.

There was 'overwhelming support' for the council's objections by those present

There was 'overwhelming support' for the council's objections by those present

Because the Concourse is within Earnley council’s parish, its formal objection means the planning application will have to be heard by CDC’s planning committee in public, rather then officers making the decision.

As revealed by the Observer, the Home Office is proposing to use Earnley Concourse to house up to 200 asylum-seekers while their housing applications are processed. They would all be men, aged between 18 and late 30, it is believed.

More than 100 people have lodged objections to the change of use planning application, though some have written letters in favour.

Petitions both for and against using the former education training centre as a temporary centre for asylum-seekers have been launched.

Other neighbouring parish councils are preparing to meet to discuss their response to the plans.

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