Public meeting cancelled after Earnley asylum-seeker plans withdrawn

A meeting about the proposed change of use of the Earnley Concourse held earlier in December PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL
A meeting about the proposed change of use of the Earnley Concourse held earlier in December PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL

A public meeting due to be held to discuss plans for a change of use at Earnley Concourse has been cancelled.

The meeting was scheduled to take place in Earnley this evening (December 17), but has been cancelled after a planning application to temporarily house some 200 asylum seekers at the concourse was withdrawn.

The controversial application was this week withdrawn by Stone Harbour Ltd after ‘much thought’.

On Monday evening (December 14) a meeting – not open to the public – was called by Stone Harbour Ltd, which owns Earnley Concourse, and Clearsprings, a company appointed by the Home Office to manage asylum seeker facilities.  

Representatives from across the area were invited to discuss the Home Office plans, which proposed to temporarily house 200 male asylum seekers in the Concourse while their housing applications were processed.

However the contentious proposal left the community divided.

The application initially sought to use the site to accommodate men aged between 18 and 40.

However this was updated last Friday (December 11), when the application changed to accommodate family groups and single persons of both sexes – before it was ultimately withdrawn on Tuesday (December 15).

Chairman of Earnley Parish Council, Keith Martin said on hearing the news: “I welcome the change of heart. It was the opinion of Earnley Parish Council and the great majority of our residents that the small rural parish of Earnley was always an inappropriate location for a hostel for asylum seekers.

“We look forward to working with Stone Harbour to help find a use for the building that meets their needs and the aspirations and amenity of the residents.”

Monday’s meeting was attended by members of Earnley Parish Council, parish councillors across the Manhood Peninsula, and representatives from Chichester District Council, the county council, Sussex Police and Earnley church.

A spokesman for Earnley Parish Council added: “There was also present a local lady who recounted her experiences of helping asylum seekers on the Greek island of Samos.

“The representatives of Stone Harbour and Clearsprings Ready Homes listened to the concerns expressed by Earnley parish councillors and other representatives of the residents of the Manhood Peninsula. 

“The following day it was announced by Stone Harbour they had decided to withdraw their planning application for a change of use at the Earnley Concourse.” 

On its website, Stone Harbour said ‘much thought’ had been given to feedback on its planning application: “The directors of Stone Harbour Ltd, having taken note of the feedback, will be withdrawing the application to change the use of Earnley Concourse from a residential institution to a hostel.

“The company will shortly publish a more detailed note with their views on the future of the Concourse.”

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