Council condemns “entirely unsuitable” asylum housing plans for Derbyshire town as protesters take to the street

Dozens of people gathered to protest outside Buxton Methodist ChurchDozens of people gathered to protest outside Buxton Methodist Church
Dozens of people gathered to protest outside Buxton Methodist Church
Dozens of people have protested outside Buxton Methodist Church against what are being described as “entirely unsuitable” plans to house asylum seekers.

The proposals, to turn 274 residences at High Peak Halls into asylum accommodation, were withdrawn by the University of Derby at the last minute on Monday, August 7. But the university confirmed to the Buxton Advertiser that they remained committed to the plans and would resubmit an application “as soon as possible”.

Protesters gathered outside the Church with banners including “save Buxton town! Turn asylum centre down” and “Buxton says NO!” on display. MP Robert Largan attended the demonstration to discuss the proposals with constituents.

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It follows widespread condemnation from local politicians at the plans with the local council, Mr Largan, and Labour Party candidate Jon Pearce all raising concerns about the level of crime in the community.

Protests outside Buxton Methodist ChurchProtests outside Buxton Methodist Church
Protests outside Buxton Methodist Church

Cllr Anthony Mckeown, leader of High Peak Borough Council, said the plans were “entirely unsuitable”.

He said: “I very much welcome the withdrawal of this application by the University. Feelings have been running high in the town and I, like residents, did not want to see this application approved.

“As Leader of the Council, I have been clear that this location is entirely unsuitable for the proposed use and I have written to the Home Office to object to the plans.”

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A meeting of the local authority’s development control committee had been due to meet today (August 7) at 1.30pm to determine the planning application. It had been recommended for refusal prior to the university withdrawing the application - something the council was only told about hours before the meeting was due to take place.

Councillor Mckeown added: “In my view, this was not the right site for vulnerable people to be accommodated and I hope the University of Derby have heard the concerns of local people and agencies and will look at other, more suitable uses for the Halls.”

As previously reported, Robert Largan, Conservative MP for High Peak, said he hoped the university would ‘go back to the drawing board’ and listen to the mood within the community.

Speaking to this paper, he said: “(It’s) quite extraordinary, really, to withdraw an application less than two hours before it was due to be decided. In some ways it isn’t surprising because it was very obvious that it was going to be refused.”

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But the University of Derby has confirmed they will resubmit proposals and said they “still intend to repurpose this building to accommodate non-students”.

Jon Pearce, Labour Party candidate for the constituency, has called on the Home Secretary to put an end to the plans before a full application was submitted.

He said: “The plans need to be stopped by the Home Secretary before a full application is submitted. She has the power to squash the proposals and to pretend she doesn't is all smoke and mirrors from the Home Office.

“This is not a safe and secure place to house vulnerable people in the wake of very serious organised crime.

“The university has done the right thing in withdrawing the application. This should be the end of the matter.”