An English university has ruled out selling former student dormitories located in a nearby village to the U.K. Home Office to house asylum seekers after mass demonstrations by local residents.
The University of Hull had been considering selling its Lawns and Ferens Hall property situated in the large village of Cottingham, just 5 kilometers from the city of Hull.
However, when local residents realized the main party acquiring the property was the Home Office — which has sought to transition from block-booking hotels to house migrants and find more long-term solutions to Britain’s asylum crisis — they reacted angrily and took action to publicly oppose the plan.
Last week, hundreds of Cottingham residents filled the local community hall for a public meeting with local politicians to discuss the proposal. Local media outlet HullLive reported that more than 1,100 people attended the meeting. When asked how many in the room did not object to the housing of asylum seekers in the village, just one individual raised their hand.
The village has a population of approximately 17,000 and already has 200 asylum seekers, which are housed at Thwaite Hall, another former student accommodation. Opponents of the university’s plan insisted they had already taken in their fair share.
A march through the town to protest the plans took place on Saturday. There was again a strong turnout, with some holding signs, one of which read, “No illegals here. Send to Rwanda,” referring to the Conservative government’s agreement with the African nation to send those who enter Britain illegally there for off-shore processing.
The public action taken by the demonstrators succeeded. On Tuesday morning, the University of Hull issued a press release in which it confirmed it would not sell the property to the Home Office and would instead find a “financially viable alternative … that reflects the communities’ priorities.”
“We have listened closely to the feedback from the community and, following constructive conversations with members of the community, regional MPs, the Police, the NHS, local authorities and other key stakeholders, we have taken this decision based on the concerns which have been raised,” said Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull Professor Dave Petley.
Reacting to the news, a long-time resident of the village told HullLive: “I think it would be good if they could convert the halls into flats because there are a lot of people who need housing in this area.
“And it’s not just housing, I had a doctor’s appointment this week and I’ve been waiting since November. So I think we don’t really have the facilities here to manage accommodation like that, we only just got a bank here recently.
“The people who are already here are struggling to access the facilities,” he added.
Local Conservative MP David Davis called the outcome “good news,” and praised university management for behaving with “impeccable concern for the local community” once the level of opposition to the plans had become clear.