Last Friday, Huw Merriman, MP for the Bexhill and Battle constituency, organised a meeting for constituents, which was attended by over 200 people, about the proposal from the Home Office to open asylum seeker accommodation at the Northeye site on the western outskirts of Bexhill.
A proposal to build asylum seeker accommodation site in Bexhill, a town of 40,000 residents, was put forward by the Home Office in March 2023. The MP had previously said he would hold a public meeting once a final decision had been made about the site. The final decision is dependent on-site surveys and assessments which continue to be carried out by the Home Office since the site was bought by them last September. The Home Office had previously advised, this would be end of 2023 or early 2024.
At the beginning of January, when it became clear that a decision would not be made within the timescales originally cited by the Home Office, the MP decided he would go ahead with a public meeting to share the information he had and to allow constituents to raise questions and concerns.
Huw began the meeting by summarising the information he had and to confirm that the current proposal for the site had changed from being an open site, where the residents would be free to come and go, to a closed, detention site. The MP told the meeting that this change to a detained-only site had been achieved by him working within government and by the introduction of the Illegal Migration Act.
Huw said “I was pleased to organise last Friday’s meeting in Bexhill on the proposed asylum immigration centre on the outskirts of Bexhill. To be clear, there is still no certainty on whether this site will go ahead. I had previously said I would organise a public meeting when we had a decision and a firm proposal. However, given how long this process may take, I decided to organise a meeting to share everything I do know and to allow residents to ask questions and share their views. I recognised that there was information which I do not yet possess because the Home Office have not yet completed their work or made a decision as to whether this site will be used at all.
“One of the key points I made to residents at the meeting is that the proposal for the Northeye site in Bexhill is for a detained and closed site only. This means that if the site goes ahead, those living there would not be free to come and go. I worked hard within government to get this change to the proposal as the idea of and ‘open’ site was a key concern brought to me by Bexhill residents and those living immediately adjacent to the site.
“Now this has been achieved, my focus is to mitigate the impact of the proposal for the residents of the Northeye estate who live adjacent to the site, if it does go ahead. I will continue to meet with them regularly and take forward their questions and concerns.”