No rural idyll for guests at 'asylum hotel'

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The Independent Online

There are plenty of attractions for the 750 asylum-seekers destined for the hamlet of Throckmorton in rural Worcestershire. Outings with the historic churches trust and Beethoven recitals in the chapel are on offer. And they can take a trip to the bright lights of Pershore, the nearest town, although they should be aware that the bus runs only once a week.

There are plenty of attractions for the 750 asylum-seekers destined for the hamlet of Throckmorton in rural Worcestershire. Outings with the historic churches trust and Beethoven recitals in the chapel are on offer. And they can take a trip to the bright lights of Pershore, the nearest town, although they should be aware that the bus runs only once a week.

But on yesterday's evidence they will be far from welcome. The prime concern of the hamlet's 75 residents was how to head off what they call the "asylum hotel"– complete with school, sports facilities and health centre. The old Ministry of Defence radar monitoring site that will be used is a sensitive area – last year it became a foot-and-mouth burial ground.

The stigma and stench created by the burial ground has already sent Throckmorton property prices down by 30 per cent, according to some local estate agents. As a gesture of goodwill, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs bought up two of the hamlet's redbrick barn conversions when locals failed to sell them last year. In search of similar generosity, residents have placed theirs on the market en masse. The ministry, currently shifting liquid deposits from the 13,000 carcasses at a rate of five tankers a day, is evidently unmoved.

Trish Green, 52, has had three couples view her house and reject it because of the burial site. And now shehas also to face "the racist card". A black man and his white wife saw her "for sale" sign while out walking, knocked at her door and accused her of selling up because of the asylum centre. "I apologised but don't feel I have to defend myself," she said. "I don't have a problem with them being foreign – my daughter-in-law is Slovakian. What I do have a problem with is people forcing their way into the country."

She added: "Pershore is a very countrified town. People will shun them."

Sally Showell lives in a whitewashed cottage in nearby Bishampton, where locals raised 3,000 names in five days for a petition securing 92 per cent support for an "anti-camp" campaign. She was already persuaded that the new residents would be "better off locked up". The reaction is "fury, outrage", she said. "Goodness knows what this will do for the crime rate."

In Pershore yesterday afternoon Malcolm Argyle, a local councillor, was already preparing his own rally: "Sunday at noon on the hotel site."

Ian Herbert

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