Fenland District Council says it will take legal action if the Home Office attempts to house asylum seekers in a Wisbech hotel.
The council’s tough stance was revealed tonight after CambsNewsOnline reported – exclusively – that the Rose & Crown Hotel in the town suddenly closed its doors today.
Widespread speculation is that the hotel’s new owner, the H & H group run by 32-year-old Hassan Mohamed Hassan Arif, has secured a deal to use the hotel for asylum seekers.
Tonight, though, Fenland District Council says it has “has moved to assure Wisbech residents that it will be prepared to take legal action amid concerns that accommodation in the town may be used to house asylum seekers”.
The council said it would be “unwholly unsuitable to place vulnerable people in an area where services are already overstretched, and that it must put the needs of its communities first”.
A council statement offered assurance that “if the Home Office does propose to use accommodation in any inappropriate location it will not hesitate to take legal action”.
Council leader Cllr Chris Boden, said: “It would be irresponsible of the Home Office to consider placing vulnerable people with no recourse to public funding in a town such as Wisbech.”
He said the Home Office needed to understand “the impact this will have on the asylum seekers themselves or the significant support they will need.
“We are in a rural location, with limited suitable accommodation and transport links.
“And we already have significant issues with migrant exploitation and homelessness, which could be further impacted if contingency asylum accommodation is earmarked for Wisbech”.
Cllr Steve Tierney, district councillor for Medworth, Wisbech, said: “As councillor for the area where the majority of hotels are, I am very concerned about these proposals.
“There are other areas which are better placed to give these vulnerable people the support they need.”
Cllr Samantha Hoy, the council’s Cabinet member for Housing, added: “We fully understand and share residents’ concerns about the potential use of local accommodation to house asylum seekers.
“We would urge the Home Office to consider more suitable locations.
“If it becomes clear that accommodation in Wisbech is being considered to place asylum seekers, we will seek legal advice and do everything in our power to fight these plans.”
The hotel was used throughout the pandemic to cater for the homeless, but this year has changed hands with the new owners banning the sale of alcohol.
The grade II listed Rose and Crown hotel, Wisbech, was put up for sale during lockdown with offers in the regions of £1.2m.
The 29-bedroom hotel was acquired by H & H Hotels group and among their first acts was to turn the bars into coffee shops.
They stopped the sale of alcohol to guests or diners – but quirkily allowed guests to bring their own alcohol into their rooms.
The H & H group is run by Hassan Mohamed Hassan Arif, whose list of directorships of other hotels or guest house chains extends to 15.
His H & H North Ltd enterprise (until recently H & H Skegness Ltd) acquired the Rose and Crown at the beginning of the year.
Mr Arif’s other companies run hotels and guests houses from Brighton to Blackpool, Great Yarmouth to Eastbourne and London.
The 26-bedroomed hotel in Wisbech closed without warning today.
“We regret to inform you that as of 4th November 2022, the hotel is permanently closed to the public,” said a post by the Rose and Crown owners on Facebook.
“This includes the food and beverage departments, alongside the accommodation.
“We thank everyone who has supported us throughout the years and will miss seeing each and every one of you.”
The closure follows weeks of speculation that the hotel was winding down ahead of securing a contract to house asylum seekers.