Corby's Best Western Rockingham Forest Hotel to become asylum seeker accommodation

Shocked brides and grooms have had their weddings cancelled and functions have been called-off
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

One of Corby’s best-loved hotels is to become accommodation for people seeking asylum in the UK.

The Rockingham Forest Best Western Hotel told staff last week that it will shut as a hotel within a month, but bosses remained tight-lipped over the exact nature of its future.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now, the Northants Telegraph has discovered that the hotel, which sits in the shadow of Rockingham Castle, is set to become temporary home to immigrants seeking refuge here.

The Rockingham Forest Best Western Hotel, Corby, is to become home to asylum seekersThe Rockingham Forest Best Western Hotel, Corby, is to become home to asylum seekers
The Rockingham Forest Best Western Hotel, Corby, is to become home to asylum seekers

It will be the first large-scale asylum seeker accommodation in North Northamptonshire. The last hotel guests will leave on September 17 and it is expected the building will be re-purposed shortly afterward.

Locals have been kept in the dark over the plans and managers refused to answer questions from our reporters on Friday. Staff have told this newspaper they are ‘in bits’ over the plan, as some of them have worked at the hotel for many years.

Read More
Mystery surrounds future of landmark Best Western Rockingham Forest Hotel in Cor...

What’s the plan?

Weddings at the hotel have been cancelled, some with short noticeWeddings at the hotel have been cancelled, some with short notice
Weddings at the hotel have been cancelled, some with short notice

Serco will take over the running of the 71-bed hotel next month and it’s expected the first asylum seekers will arrive shortly after that. The hotel will be used as ‘initial’ accommodation – housing new asylum seekers for 30 days while they await news of their applications to remain, and before they are offered more permanent ‘dispersed’ homes.

Who are Serco?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Serco are a private firm that run the £1.9bn accommodation contract for housing around 20,000 asylum seekers on behalf of the Home Office in the Midlands and the North West. The Home Office began to use hotels as a ‘temporary measure’ after demand surged during lockdown. But the practise has continued.

While in hotel accommodation, asylum seekers are given three meals per day to ensure their basic human needs are met, and small cash payments to cover essentials.

What exactly are asylum seekers?

Asylum seekers are people who have left their home country and have applied for protection once they arrive in the UK. They are known as asylum seekers between their arrival and their application being processed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee is that a refugee has already been offered protection before they travel to the UK.

Those seeking asylum are not criminals and, as such, are free to come and go from their accommodation as they please. They have often arrived on our shores desperate for refuge from war-torn or politically unstable countries. They are some of our most vulnerable members of society. Britain has a long and proud tradition of welcoming asylum seekers from all over the world. Recently, we have accepted thousands of asylum seekers from countries experiencing war and instability including Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

There were 49,000 asylum applications last year – the highest total for two decades.

Britain is bound by the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees to accept asylum seekers until their status has been decided.

What about the current hotel staff?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Some are due to find out today (Monday, August 22) whether they will keep their jobs or not. Most are expected to stay on although others have told reporters they are upset at the change in their roles.

What has happened to all the existing bookings?

Bookings until mid-September appear to be being honoured, but all those afterward have been cancelled, including weddings. One bride told this newspaper that she had been left devastated and searching for a wedding venue after her wedding was cancelled.

Why this hotel, and why Corby?

Corby is a town built on migration and has a reputation for welcoming people from across the world to live and work here. There is no existing similar accommodation in North Northamptonshire. Placing asylum seekers in hotels costs the government £4.7m per day and so, in April, the rules changed to ensure that every local authority in the country became a dispersal area, compelled by law to house up to one asylum seeker for every 200 residents. North Northamptonshire’s population is 350,000.

The decision to change the use of this hotel was taken behind closed-doors and is unlikely to be made public.

Will we get a say?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

No. No planning permission is needed for the hotel to be used to house asylum seekers on a temporary basis so there is no medium for local people to formally object.

Local councillors are said to have serious concerns about the lack of transparency in the decision-making process and have requested a meeting with senior leaders at NNC later this week over their worries.

This newspaper has contacted ward councillors, Serco and the MP for comment.

Cllr Alison Dalziel confirmed that members had been formally told of the plans just ten days ago. Members were given a document containing some answers to commonly-asked questions. It read: “This contingency hotel arrangement has been put in place jointly by the central government departments working with SERCO. SERCO will run the arrangement in its entirety along with the hotel staff.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The council has not been involved in identifying or making the arrangements but will provide support as required in meeting needs that are outside of the usual asylum process.

“The council will assist SERCO in working closely with the police and fire service and NHS, as well as our officers to both advise and ensure to carry any necessary checks are carried out appropriately.

People that are supported at the hotel that are successful in their asylum applications will move on to dispersal accommodation across the country.

“We are not aware that any donations are required for this cohort of people as all necessary support will be provided through the SERCO contract.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“North Northamptonshire is a welcoming place and recognise our necessary role in supporting displaced communities internationally.”

Former illegal migration minister and Corby MP Tom Pursglove has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Those who have any concerns or questions should, in the first instance, contact their local councillor or MP Tom Pursglove.