Plans to house almost 300 asylum seekers in one site in Chertsey are being opposed by Runnymede & Weybridge Conservatives.
Dr Ben Spencer, MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, and Cllr Tom Gracey, Leader of Runnymede Borough Council say they have 'serious concerns' about the plan as it would place an 'unmanageable burden' on local services including schools and healthcare.
The building proposed by Home Office officials in partnership with developer Clearwater, is Syward Place in Pyrcroft Road.
Runnymede has a proud tradition of supporting vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers; the Council has supported Government programmes to welcome Syrian and Afghan refugees, taking substantial numbers in recent years. With the Council’s help, local residents have welcomed over 230 Ukrainian refugees into their homes since the start of the war.
According to official data, Surrey has taken more Ukrainian refugees than any other county, but local help and support must be proportionate and sustainable.
Dr Ben Spencer MP said:
I have serious concerns about the impact this inappropriate proposal would have on Chertsey, a town of 15,000 residents, and the surrounding area, particularly given the pressure services are already under. Asylum seekers need quality accommodation and support, and this includes integration into communities. This proposal is not that, and I will fight against any proposal which is unfair to our local community or the asylum seekers that need to be housed.
Cllr Tom Gracey, Leader of Runnymede Borough Council, said:
We are keen to play our part and engage with the Home Office to identify suitable accommodation for asylum seeker families, but plans to place 300 people in one location will place an unmanageable burden on local services and our ability to provide the support these families may need.
The site suggested was also intended to provide affordable housing for local residents. It cannot be that plans to support asylum seekers mean local residents miss out.
Previous plans to build asylum seeker accommodation in Aviator Park in Addlestone were successfully opposed by the Council and Dr Ben Spencer MP last year. They have made clear they want to work with the Home Office to consider more suitable options for supporting asylum seekers but will continue to robustly oppose any plans which would harm local communities.
As part of its work relocating Syrian, Afghan, and Ukrainian refugees in Runnymede, Runnymede Borough Council has supported volunteer organisations to run drop in sessions and support groups.
This includes creating employment opportunities, providing experienced staff to help navigate processes and assisting families to find homes in the private rented sector.
The Council has helped children into education, and adults on to English language courses, and to integrate into their communities, for example by introducing them to libraries and social groups.
Dr Ben Spencer MP has also highlighted in Westminster the incredible support the Runnymede community has provided to refugees, and the need for safe and legal routes for asylum seekers, which can be viewed here: