A centre to temporarily house up to 200 asylum seekers could be coming to Earnley, the Observer has learned.
A planning application has been submitted for a change of use for Earnley Concourse so the building can also be used as a hostel.
Although the planning documents make no reference to who would use the former educational training centre on Clappers Lane, the Observer has been told that the Home Office is considering using it to home asylum seekers on a temporary basis, while their applications for housing are being processed.
When approached for a comment, a Home Office spokesman would only say: “We can confirm that one of our contractors has submitted a planning application for a change of use for a site near Chichester.
“We await the council’s decision on the application.”
According to a council source, who asked not to be named, members of Chichester District Council, West Sussex County Council and some parish councils have been briefed on the plans by a Home Office representative.
“This is a Home Office project so it’s nothing to do with the district or county council, apart from when it comes to deciding on the planning application,” the source said.
“It’s for 200 asylum seekers, not refugees, and we’ve been told they would be housed there for between three and 19 days while their asylum applications are being assessed.
“Those who are successful would then be transferred to centres in other areas of the country while they wait to be housed, and presumably those who are unsuccessful would be deported.”
It is understood the Home Office is looking to rent the Earnley Concourse from its owners on a temporary basis initially.
Due to the current European migration crisis, the government is struggling to cope with the high number of people seeking asylum and is looking at areas across the country, including Earnley, to house people in the short term.
Earnley Concourse closed as an educational training centre and accommodation in 2011 and has been empty since.
A Chichester District Council spokesperson said: “The owners of Earnley Concourse have submitted a planning application for ‘change of use’.
“The application is currently on the council’s website www.chichester.gov.uk/planning where people can view the application and submit comments. “It will follow the usual process including consultation with the parish council and publicity in the wider community. Officers will then visit the site, undertake an assessment and then make a recommendation.”
An asylum seeker is a person who has arrived in the UK and has a legal right to stay while a decision is made on his or her housing claim.
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