Plan to house Afghans at Holt Hall quashed

Holt Hall environmental and outdoor learning centre has been much-loved by families for generations

There was a plan to house Afghan refugees at Holt Hall. - Credit: Archant

A bid to house Afghan refugees at Holt Hall was rejected because of a lack of supermarkets, mosques or an existing community there, a council leader has said. 

In September, North Norfolk District Council leader Sarah Bütikofer said they had hoped to work with the county council to house some Afghan families fleeing the Taliban, in a location that would not affect social housing stock.  

At the time, Mrs Bütikofer would not say where that location was in case it affected the bid, but she has now revealed the council had hoped to use the now-closed Holt Hall. 

She said: "We wanted to see Afghan families housed in there on temporary accommodation whilst they were waiting permanent housing. 

"It’s really important to say that we all want to do our piece to help these refugees and this wouldn’t have impacted the housing of our local families in Norfolk."

But Mrs Bütikofer said they were told north Norfolk lacked "the right sorts of supermarkets" or a place for the mostly Muslim Afghans to pray.

Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council leader.

Sarah Butikofer, North Norfolk District Council leader. - Credit: NNDC

She said: "We’ve had them tell us that we haven't got a mosque. But we can create sacred spaces to help our communities here, and we’re happy to do that.

"They tell us we haven't got the right sorts of supermarkets so they can’t source the right sorts of food."   

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Craig Chalmers, the county council's director of community social work, said the council was focused on finding long-term accommodation for Afghan refugees. 

Mr Chalmers said: "Holt Hall would only have provided a short-term solution in an area of the county not close to regular amenities and most importantly, not close to other families and friends.

Refugees from Afghanistan arriving on a evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport.

Refugees from Afghanistan arriving on a evacuation flight at Heathrow Airport. - Credit: PA

“In all placements we will consider what is needed to support the need for long term housing, near to schools and training/language/employment opportunities and the support network that displaced people often need. 

"This is particularly important where there are communities with strong cultural and religious requirements.”

Norfolk County Council was one of the first in the country to offer assistance for the government's resettlement scheme, called the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, which was launched in April