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Asylum hotel: joy as protestors win battle

The scene at one of several marches held to oppose the plan
The scene at one of several marches held to oppose the plan

CAMPAIGNERS in Sittingbourne have won their fight to stop the Coniston Hotel being used as a centre for asylum seekers.

Home Office minister Beverley Hughes has announced that the Government was scrapping plans to convert the hotel into an induction centre.

It followed consultation with residents, Swale Borough Council, Kent County Council, Swale Police and local healthcare providers.

In a statement Ms Hughes said: “After a period of consultation, and having considered all of the facts, I have decided not to go ahead with plans for an induction centre at the Coniston Hotel.

“The Government remains firmly committed to a national network of induction centres, but will now build on existing arrangements and have further discussions with the voluntary sector.”

The news has been welcomed by campaigners in Sittingbourne, who were outraged when the plans for the asylum centre were revealed exclusively by the Kent Messenger Group in January.

The backlash over the secrecy surrounding the plans forced the Government to review its plans and carry out formal consultation exercise. Thousands of people signed petitions that were delivered to Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament and hundreds of people took part in demonstrations outside the hotel.

Swale Borough Council was also pursuing legal action to prevent the plans from going ahead.

Mike Apps, a member of Sittingbourne Action Committee in Kent, said: “I am just over the moon. I knew it was worth fighting for and it has all been worthwhile. The amenities will be available for the community, and that is all we ever wanted.

“All credit to everybody in Sittingbourne who took part and supported us. I know it was a long and drawn out but the people who stuck with it all the way through have shown that with the right people fighting for the right cause, communities will always win."

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