Proposed asylum seeker hostel raises concerns with residents and councillors of Newport City

A planning application for an asylum seeker hostel has been refused by Newport City Council, due to the possible “adverse impact on the community”.

The plans for 1 Clyffard Crescent were submitted by Cardiff-based D2 Propco and proposed to change two flats into a hostel for eight people.

Concerns about the proposed hostel were raised by neighbours, Stow Hill councillors and Gwent Police.

Hannah Lewis-Jones, who lives nearby, said it had been a “very miserable couple of months” with noisy tenants already living in the building and keeping her awake at night.

Following the refusal, she said: “I’m relieved that Newport City Council has stuck to the planning legislation.

“I would like to think the council would recommend against an appeal and not waste more taxpayer money. The police report isn’t going to change, the parking isn’t going to change, and the desnity isn’t going to either.”

Seven out of 20 properties along Clyffard Crescent are already in use as Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO). The area has more HMOs than the council’s recommended amount, which contributed to the application’s refusal.

The local authority has a statutory obligation to provide suitable accommodation for Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children (UASC). Newport is also a recognised ‘City of Sanctuary’.

According to the council’s social services department, the accommodation was proposed for asylum seekers who are due to turn 18 or who are already 18.

Ms Lewis-Jones previously told the Local Demorcray Reporting Service: “I came to Newport after an abusive marriage and it’s been my safe haven. I have spent the past four years defending Newport but now I can’t. With the street lights being turned off as well, I don’t feel safe.”

She added: “If they want to put refugee families in there, they’re more than welcome, but not young people with no supervision.

“I do get that this is the government pushing this, and that’s why I have a single mum with two teenage boys living in my house – I’m doing my bit.”

The plans received 57 objections. Stow Hill councillor Miqdad Al-Nuaimi said the proposal had caused “a lot of concern and consternation” for residents in his ward.

Cllr Al-Nuaimi described the proposed development as “cramped ” and said the council had a duty of care to the occupier.

He added: “It’s clear the hostel proposal is aimed at maximising the financial return to its owners/operators instead of providing proper care for the wellbeing of its client group and both their physical and mental health.”

Cllr Kate Thomas, who also represents Stow Hill, said the application “risks serious deterioration” of the area, and that neighbours would be reluctant to use balconies and gardens if the plans were approved.

The Labour councillor added: “The placement of such accommodation, and the vulnerability of the proposed occupiers, is not in the public interest in an area with significant residential character, strong social ties and where there are many families with children.”

Gwent Police submitted an objection to the plans based on crime data reported in and around the area.

Between December 2021 and November 2022, there were 561 reports of anti-social behaviour and 560 public order offences – which includes behaviour that interferes with the operation of society and its ability to function efficiently.

In a document submitted to the council, an unnamed Gwent Police officer said: “Hostels and HMOs by their very nature can contribute to internal disputes/disruptive behaviour as well as filtering outside onto the public space which could contribute towards the fear of crime for local residents and visitors to the area.

“There appears to be a lack of a capable guardian – no live in or 24/7 support workers – to be able to address and deal with any issues/concerns of occupants in a timely manner and this could result in noise, disruption to other occupiers, local residents and result in an increase in calls to emergency services.”

The council’s social services department, which is responsible for placing asylum seekers, said the development was to follow “standard safety measures”, including evening welfare checks, CCTV and daily updates from D2 Propco. Additionally, each of the young people was to be allocated support staff – a social worker and a personal adviser.

In their comments on the planning portal, Jay McCabe and Betsan Evans, from Newport’s social services, said: “If particular needs, vulnerabilities or other concerns are identified, foster placements may be sourced instead.

“The local authority anticipate that Clyffard Crescent will provide the opportunity to match young people, coordinate services and offer the right support to a young person.”

They added: “The communities in which these young people are based have not raised any significant concerns to date.”

Mark Seymour is a project manager at The Gap Wales, a charity which support refugees and asylum seekers in Newport.

He said: “Generally the properties don’t present the same kind of challenges as some traditional homeless hostels with people who have challenging behaviours.

“These young people don’t tend to have these life-controlling addictions. They are young people who live independently, but they are away from their parents and just need support.”

He added: “I have worked with a number of young asylum seekers. There’s a group who came six years ago through supported accommodation, they are all doing well now and they are settled. Some are in full-time work, some in college, and some have just passed their driving tests. They are just living a normal life.

“I don’t want to undervalue the concerns of local residents, but it’s good to be informed. Object on accurate information, rather than assumptions.”

Mr Seymour has fostered two young people who are seeking asylum and said if there were enough foster carers then properties like this wouldn’t be needed.

He added: “It would be better for these people to be in foster care, but there’s a shortage in Newport. I know the council would welcome anybody willing to foster – whether that’s refugees or other young people.”

According to the council, all supported accommodation within Newport is currently at capacity and there is a significant accommodation shortage.

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