Don't place sub-standard asylum seeker accommodation at Barton Stacey

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Joint Petition of the Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Cllr Phil North & Caroline Nokes MP, not to place sub-standard asylum seeker accommodation at Barton Stacey. 

The Home Office is proposing to use an MoD site immediately south of the A303 at Barton Stacey as a short-term facility to house up to 500 asylum seekers whilst their applications are being processed. The portacabin style accommodation would primarily accommodate young men from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Eritrea who have come into the UK on boats from the continent.   

Whilst we understand the argument about disincentivising dangerous channel crossings facilitated by criminal gangs of people smugglers – and whether you think this country should house more asylum seekers or not - putting these individuals up in temporary buildings akin to an open prison is the wrong accommodation in the wrong location. 

1. Poor accommodation and limited amenities.

Apart from dining and basic recreation facilities, there will be nothing for the asylum seekers to do. The parish of Barton Stacey has a population of approximately 1,000 people. An influx of 500 young men into a rural area of this nature will have a significant impact. In other similar facilities, this has led to an increase in anti-social behaviour and criminality. With poor accommodation, no curfew until 10pm and easy access to the road network there is a very real risk that many of the occupants may choose to abscond and slip into the black economy. This is therefore entirely unacceptable. 

2. Significant safety concerns due to the site’s proximity to the A303 

The site is located extremely close to the A303. It is a major fast-flowing trunk road some seven miles from the town of Andover, where the main local facilities are located. There is little or no community infrastructure near the site. Indeed, apart from the Barton Stacey Post Office and Stores the only facilities nearby are the services located on the trunk road itself, which are there to serve those travelling on the highway network. With no other similar facilities in the vicinity, occupants of the camp will almost certainly want to access the A303 services on foot. This represents a significant highway danger in them walking on land adjacent to the road and in the carriageway itself. This is dangerous to both the travelling public and the asylum seekers themselves, many of whom will no doubt be tempted to walk to Andover to use the facilities in the town. Again, it is almost certain that they will seek to use the most direct route, which is the A303.

3. Increased traffic on substandard slip roads leading to highway dangers 

The slip roads that service the A303 in this location are short and substandard. The proposals will lead to increased traffic movements to and from the site which will also lead to increased danger on the highway.  

4. Community Tensions 

Test Valley Borough Council has a good track record of supporting the Home Office, including through its active engagement and participation in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS). It is right that this country houses its fair share of genuine refugees and taking them directly from the camps rather than encouraging people smuggling is the right way to do it. It’s our fear though, that because these individuals have arrived by nefarious means that there will be significant community tensions.  
 

5. Nitrates impact on the Solent 

Even if planning permission is not required from the local authority, the proposals will need to demonstrate that there would not be a significant effect on European designated sites in order to satisfy the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (the Habitats Regulations). Given that the proposal involves overnight accommodation, the government would need to demonstrate that there would not be a significant impact on the Solent through the increase of nitrates within the watercourses, even if it is permitted development. Any mitigation would be required to be agreed with Natural England and in place prior to use. In addition, the Environment Agency will need to be consulted due to the fact that the River Dever, a tributary of the nationally significant River Test, flows just to the south of the site. Due to this well-documented issue, the cost of providing accommodation on this site compared to elsewhere will be much more expensive and will take longer while mitigation land is found. We will, of course, face legitimate questions from those currently unable to build homes because of the nitrates issue if the government doesn’t hold itself to the same standards.  

The Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Cllr Phil North, Caroline Nokes MP and all signatories below, therefore object to this proposal in the strongest possible terms. We stand beside our residents and local communities to try and ensure this does not go ahead.