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Long wait for decision over asylum hotel

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MP DEREK WYATT: says decision is unlikely ahead of May elections
MP DEREK WYATT: says decision is unlikely ahead of May elections

THE residents of Sittingbourne are set for an indefinite wait before finding out the fate of the Coniston Hotel which the Home Office plans to turn into a centre for asylum seekers.

Fears that the decision process could drag on into June were raised after Immigration Minister for the Home Office Beverley Hughes said that the independent review into NASS would run until the end of May.

But the Home Office says the two reviews are not linked. Spokeswoman Hannah Maclachlan said: "Sittingbourne and the Coniston is not one of the things they will be looking at (in the NASS review) - rather they will be concentrating on the operations and administrative side of the organisation.

"The decision on Sittingbourne (the Coniston) will be made by ministers rather than by NASS when all relevant documents, opinions etc from local organisations and residents have been received.

"Ministers will then be able to make an informed judgement. There is no definite date for this."

But MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey Derek Wyatt explained that the decision almost certainly will not be made before local elections on May 1. He said: "There is a sort of unwritten law we are not allowed to make decisions that would impact on local elections. So by the rules of Government no decision will be made until local elections are completed."

The information gathering process over the Coniston is still open until March 21.

Borough councillor Roger Truelove (Lab) has urged residents to keep making their feelings known to NASS until that closing date. He said: "I know a lot of people have written to NASS but I would encourage more to do so."

The address to write to is: NASS, 5th Floor, Block B, Whitgift Centre, Wellesley Road, Croydon CR9 1AT.

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