I have received a high number of emails over the weekend about the Palms Hotel on the A127 following reports that this vacant premises might be used to house asylum seekers by the Home Office. I appreciate the concern this has caused the local community and I am working to establish the full facts as quickly as possible.
My team and I were first alerted to this potential use of the Palms site last week when Havering Council contacted us to see if we could furnish them with any additional information, further to a member of their staff being telephoned by a Home Office contractor.
Since we had regrettably not received any formal notification ourselves of this plan, we made immediate representations to the Home Secretary so that we could ascertain the veracity of the initial reports and the likely needs of those who could potentially be housed on the site.
I am now in touch directly with the Home Secretary’s Special Adviser, who is waiting on a full briefing from Home Office officials. So far, I am advised that the use of Palms will be a temporary measure during the covid period until people can be moved out of the asylum system. Once I have proper details from the Home Office, however, I shall seek to update residents directly.
It is important to get the facts on exactly what is proposed, rather than jump the gun and cause alarm, so that we can better understand the impact or otherwise on local healthcare, education and other public services, whether this site is suitable for such a purpose given its location and design, the likely average length of stay and the time period that the Home Office is proposing to use the Palms Hotel.
I share constituents’ concern that any decision of this nature by the Home Office or its contractors would not be taken in consultation with the local council, NHS or other relevant stakeholders who may need to be involved in the provision of services or site management. Furthermore, without proper information and reassurance, people will be left to fill in the gaps and we have already seen this happening on social media. I have expressed my frustration to the Home Office at their handling of this matter.
I am already in touch with nearby schools and the ward police team, who will be conducting a site review. My team stands ready to gather together and share with the Home Secretary any issues that the local community and service providers may wish to raise and get answers to once we know precisely what is being planned.
I wish to thank those constituents and local organisations who are engaging with us on this issue. I am very sorry that at this stage we do not have more to share with you but we shall be in touch again shortly.