Proposal made for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children’s centre at Northwood Court

The former student accommodation


A proposal to use the former student accommodation at Northwood Court – by the Nelson College Broadstairs campus which formerly belonged to Canterbury Christ Church University – to accommodate up to 86 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children has been lodged with Thanet council.

The application has been made by Ready Homes with the site identified by Kent County Council (KCC) and Ready Homes as a suitable location for the Reception Centre which will provide specialist accommodation and support the UAS Children’s Service.

Ready Homes is a provider of social services care leaver accommodation under a contract with Kent County Council and also contracted by the government to find and operate accommodation for people awaiting asylum claims.

Planning documents say: “The need for this bespoke type of accommodation derives from the County Council’s statutory responsibility for UAS children entering the United Kingdom via the Port of Dover.

“KCC are required to provide accommodation, safeguarding and support to children and young people and as part of this, the UAS Children’s Service is required to identify Reception Centre facilities within Kent boundaries.

“A High Court judgement on 27th July 2023 ordered KCC to immediately take all possible steps to accommodate UAS children and increase its care capacity in response to the Council receiving over 1,200 UAS children referred when arriving in the County.

“There are two existing Reception Centres  in Ashford and Cranbrook, however they do not have the capacity to meet this significant increase in demand and are unable to expand on-site. It is therefore necessary for KCC to open an additional Reception Centre located near to the point of entry of UAS children into Kent.

“KCC have undertaken searches for suitable sites and buildings which could provide the specialist accommodation and as part of this process, Ready Homes identified Northwood Court as the preferred opportunity.”

The former Broadstairs student accommodation site

The documents outline the site is considered to be suitable because of:

  • The proximity of the site to the Port of Dover assists in limiting the distances travelled by new arrivals from Dover and mitigates the impact of staff resources requiring to travel across the County. • It is an existing vacant building with a sufficient number of rooms to accommodate the increased demand in care capacity. The building itself requires no changes to the internal layout or external arrangements which would help to accelerate the delivery of the Centre and reduce costs.
  • Formerly student accommodation, the building is relatively modern with three distinct entrances to all the bedrooms allowing some natural groupings of new arrivals if required. The existing student accommodation layout arrangement of the building also allows a greater focus on developing skills to live independently.
  • The site has good transport connections and is sustainably located at Westwood where there is a mixture of uses within the vicinity of the site and easy access to local amenities. This includes health and well-being services, sport and leisure activities and places of worship.

Ready Homes has been providing care accommodation services for KCC since 2017.

The county council has dealt with the referral of more than 2,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children into its service in the last year.

Unaccompanied youngsters will stay at the Reception Centre for up to an eight-week period before moving on via the National Transfer Scheme (NTS). The scheme has been established to enable the safe transfer of UAS children from one local authority to another.

Northwood Court contains 85 ensuite bedrooms arranged in a series of flats, a warden flat, a laundry room with bike, bin and smoking shelters. Four car parking spaces are provided within the gated complex with a further fifteen car parking spaces allocated to the west of the building.

Planning permission was granted on 19th October 2023 for the change of use from student accommodation to proposed workers accommodation in association with Thanet Earth but this proposal did not progress any further.

Prior to that, in 2022, the site was procured by Clearsprings Ready Homes which has a 10-year contract to manage asylum seeker accommodation in England and Wales, and briefly used to house people seeking asylum.

Reception Centre outline

Image Hume Planning Consultancy

Planning documents say: “The re-use of the building will enable the capacity of up to 86 unaccompanied asylum seeking children at a single time. The building would accommodate male children, aged between 16-17 years old, for an 8-week period who have newly arrived into the United Kingdom through the Port of Dover.

“A total of 86 bedrooms with ensuites, including four accessible bedrooms and a staff bedsit with an ensuite located on the ground floor, is proposed. Also located within the building are 18 shared kitchens and a communal lounge.

“Daytime activities at the Reception Centre will consist of education with English lessons for speakers of other languages, independent living skills and leisure activities. Similar to the existing Reception Centres at Ashford and Cranbrook, these activities will mostly take place on-site. While they are residing at the Reception Centre, the children’s learning and education remains ‘in house’ through either classroom learning or ELearning.

“Off-site activities could also include trips to local parks, local sports clubs, bowling, the cinema, wildlife parks and the beach. When located off site, minibus transportation will be used for these supervised external visits.”

The site will be managed by Ready Homes, on behalf of KCC, providing accommodation, support services and facilities management of the centre. To provide suitable support for the children, the facility will be assisted by NHS health staff, translators, educational and emotional support services.

It is proposed that there will be 22 staff on-site on a rota basis with additional overnight specialist staff of up to 7 in total. Additional Ready Homes staff will include one centre manager, five centre operatives, four security staff, two cleaning staff and three catering staff based on a rolling rota system.

Overall, there will be 44 full-time employees for the accommodation centre.

Documents say that during their stay, the young people will be required to return to the site no later than 8pm to be present for a daily registration record that takes place shortly before 10pm. There will also be working CCTV installed on-site to provide security.

A decision on the application for Northwood Court is yet to be made.

Craig Mackinlay

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said: “I am hugely disappointed that the former student accommodation at the Christ Church University site in Northwood has come into view once more for use as asylum accommodation. I saw off a similar proposal in November 2022 citing the verbal deal that I secured with Ministers that because of the Manston site and our proximity to Dover that East Kent would be deemed to be ‘doing its bit’ in the national asylum crisis and would face no accommodation sites.

“The proposal this time is for males aged 16-17. I do understand that Kent County Council finds itself in a difficult situation following the loss of a court case which, in summary, said that no matter what the pressures are on the county regarding unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), the statutory duty to deal with any number remains. One hopes that those claiming to be 16 or 17 really are so as it is well documented that older men have been falsely claiming to be children when they are clearly not so.

“My concerns remain that it is close to schools and Broadstairs residents are rightly worried and angered.

“The previous Conservative administration at Thanet District Council had an innovative plan to put this building to use as emergency accommodation for local homeless families. I hope that planning reasons can be put forward for the change of use to be refused by TDC’S Planning Committee.

“I will be contacting Home Office Ministers once more to ask for their intervention.”

The rising profits made by Clearsprings Ready Homes through asylum contracts – and a look at the issue of application backlogs


    • It’s only going to get worse when Labour take power. Keir Let them all in, borders are racist Starmer will open the floodgates of asylum to everyone.

  1. Oh dear, so our new labour council do not want Manston Airport to reopen because labour don’t want the unemployed to get jobs that the airport would generate, but the same council is happy to supply a site for those who call themselves travellers to ruin the village Garllinge and allow a building to be used by 80 unaccompanied children to cause havoc. The real danger us voters will be facing at the general election will be who in their right mind would vote Conservative or Labour for that matter
    If a LABOUR council is anti airport and ignores local residents and destroys a village and neighbourhood. This sort of horrific background will be the best thing to happen and turn moderate, sensible voters into angry avengers who will simply vote reform party in the UK will be heading towards dictatorship all helped and bought about but useless conservatives with their help from labour. What a nightmare.

    • ‘Bill’ – you have not read the article properly or have chosen to misinterpret it to suit your beliefs.
      It is Conservative-run KCC who are being told, by the Conservative govt to increase capacity for UAS. Labour-run TDC is being asked to review the planning application. Planning Committees are also apolitical so again – it has nothing to do with party policy.
      Labour policy is to stop people trafficking by working with France to clear the more efficiently and tackle the gangs themselves.

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