Concern over MoD plans to house more refugees in Richmondshire

File pic of housing in Catterick Garrison. Photo: Google.

Councillors have raised concerns over a move between the government and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to house refugees in former force’s housing, saying the decision could leave authorities in North Yorkshire facing a crisis, while places lack the appropriate facilities and services or are too isolated.

A North Yorkshire Council meeting heard more than 3,100 Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) eligible people had arrived in the UK from Pakistan since October and 35 ARAP households had moved into MoD service family accommodation in the county.

Councillors were told at the end of May North Yorkshire had resettled 382 people from Afghan resettlement schemes and while the original target for Richmondshire, which includes Catterick Garrison, had been 45, some 177 people had already been resettled there.

By comparison, the meeting heard 14 Afghan resettlement scheme people had been housed in Craven, 38 in Hambleton, 116 in Harrogate, 16 in Scarborough and 21 in Selby.

The meeting heard a Richmondshire District Council report had concluded the area did not have sufficient facilities, such as GP surgeries or dentists, to accommodate refugees.

The authority had written to the government over funding rules for refugees housing, councillors heard, saying families in the former military properties would be made homeless at the end of their three-year lease term unless a replacement property could be found for them.

The meeting was told regular flights into the UK bringing Afghan arrivals were continuing and North Yorkshire might be required to accommodate further ARAP families in former service family properties.

Officers warned if this occurred, it would compound “the existing challenge of finding affordable move-on properties for the current households accommodated in the services accommodation”.

They added another concern was that for future arrivals, service family accommodation in more rural and sparsely populated areas of the
county could be used by the MoD, making the integration Afghans into North Yorkshire society a greater challenge.

The meeting heard there would be no consultation with communities over any refugees being housed as part of the joint MoD and government scheme.

Referring to concerns over locating refugees in rural areas and smaller settlements, an officer told the meeting: “When you have a very small market town and particularly villages it does not work as well.”

Councillor Malcolm Taylor said while North Yorkshire Council no longer had a role in the decision-making process about where refugees were housed, it remained a major concern near the “large, empty military base” of RAF Linton on Ouse.

Catterick Garrison councillor Kevin Foster said there was “a massive housing crisis” in the town, partly due to soaring numbers of no fault evictions and while the MoD was offering temporary use of its houses, he had “huge concerns” about where the refugees would live afterwards.

He said: “To find we’re going to have to go from 45 to 177 and we’re going to have to get the refugees or the people living there into council different properties for the end of the year, I have no idea how we’re going to do this.

“My email box is absolutely full of people trying to get houses and especially three or four-bedroom houses. We haven’t got houses now, where on earth are we going to put these people when they come back into us?

“I’m absolutely astounded by this. I don’t know what I’m going to tell my residents.”

The MoD has been approached for comment.

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