Following the public meeting held by Bexhill-on-Sea Town Council on the 26th April 2023, where the public were free to discuss the proposed Northeye asylum centre: all questions and statements were recorded and compiled into the following document.
This document has since been sent to Rishi Sunak, the Home Office, and Huw Merriman. The Town Council will provide updates as responses are given.
We have been chasing the Home Office for a response every week since this meeting, and as at October 2023 we still have no reply to any of our emails.
The government factsheet can be found here:
The Town Council's Northeye Questions and Answers
Updated 21st April 2023
Why is Bexhill-on-Sea organising a meeting about Northeye when it has no powers to stop the Home Office proposal?
The Mayor of Bexhill, in his capacity of Chair of the Council, has called this extraordinary meeting of the Full Council. It is proposed that two hours is set aside for residents of Bexhill to inform the Council of their views. This will create an official public record of the views and can be submitted to the local MP and the Home Office.
Why has it taken this long to call a meeting? There have been several protests in the town already and the Town Council has not participated.
We only found out about the proposal when it was released to the public. We felt it necessary to wait for the full facts before calling a meeting. We were waiting to be invited to a stakeholder meeting with the MP Huw Merriman. However we were not invited to this meeting. The Mayor decided to proceed with an extraordinary meeting to discuss this one subject and use the information gathered to make an official representation to the Home Office on behalf of Bexhill. According to legislation, the Town Council operates only as a corporate body, therefore individual councillors have no power to act outside of meetings.
Why is Huw Merriman not attending the public meeting?
We have invited Mr Merriman, and his office has advised that he is not available for the next few weeks. We have been offered a private remote meeting, and we are currently making arrangements. Mr Merriman has confirmed that he will organise a public meeting with the Home Office at some point in the future.
Will the meeting be live streamed or recorded?
We will audio live stream the meeting and broadcast this on our YouTube channel in the usual way. The recording will remain on the YouTube channel for future listening. The link to our YouTube channel is on our website www.bexhilltowncouncil.gov.uk
How will you submit our views?
The recording of the meeting will be prepared as a written transcript.
What is the capacity of the venue?
We have booked the largest available venue at short notice to hold this meeting. The Bexhill 6th Form College Refectory holds up to 350 people. We have asked a private security firm to count attendees as they enter the meeting to ensure we do not breach fire safety regulations. Entrance is on a first come, first served basis, and once at capacity we will not be able to allow any further entrants to the meeting.
If I do not get into the meeting due to capacity being reached, how can I participate?
You can send your written views to the Town Council using our contact details at the bottom of this Q&A document marking it for inclusion in the submission.
How safe is this meeting for me to attend?
The Town Council has consulted with Sussex Police before risk assessing this event. We have employed private security to assist with the smooth and safe running of the meeting. We ask that residents do not bring large bags and keep personal belongings to a minimum. We will be conducting bag searches at the door to ensure that attendees are not carrying any dangerous or offensive items or materials that could be used to disrupt the meeting. We will end the meeting by 9.30pm and ask that residents vacate the site peacefully and promptly after the meeting, to allow the College staff to clear down the venue and prepare for the following day’s business.
Are there any rules of engagement for the meeting?
As this is a Full Council meeting, the Chair is responsible for the smooth running of the meeting. We expect attendees to be respectful to the Chair, Councillors, staff, and security workers and to behave in a courteous and considerate manner, following the Council’s Standing Orders. This means waiting for direction when to speak, abiding by the Chair’s authority, not calling out, not disrupting proceedings, and not making any offensive or aggressive statements.
How will you manage the public speaking session?
Those wishing to speak should signal their intention to the facilitator of the meeting when asked to do so and wait to be invited to speak by the facilitator. Before speaking, you should construct the points to be made and stick to them, speaking for as short a time as possible without repetition, whilst using clear, acceptable non-defamatory language. If you fail to make all your points, it may not be possible to have another chance to speak if a lot of people are waiting, so it is advisable to make a quick note of bullet points to be made. The Chair may need to take a firm line with people who speak without waiting for an invitation. Each attendee will have at least three minutes to speak. Bexhill residents will be given priority to speak. You will be asked to state your name and postcode before speaking.
What will happen if those wishing to speak do not follow the Council’s Standing Orders?
It is the Chair’s has a duty to outlaw disruptive practices, first by warning offenders and then, should behaviour persist, by asking the Councillors present if they are happy for the Chair to ask the offender to leave. This would always be a last resort. If this is not complied with the meeting can be suspended. We do not want this to happen and appeal to all those attending to act courteously and allow others to feel comfortable to air their views.
If the meeting is on a first come first served entry basis, what time shall I arrive?
We ask that residents arrive from 6.30pm and no earlier to allow us to prepare the venue. We ask that residents queue sensibly at the door whilst we conduct the relevant bag searches and guide everyone to their seats safely. If you are unable to enter the meeting due to capacity being reached, you can write to us with your views so that they are included in our Home Office submission.
I have accessibility needs; can I still attend the meeting?
We ask that anyone with additional accessibility needs contacts us ahead of the meeting so that we can ensure you have the support you require. There is suitable wheelchair access at the Refectory.
What if there is not enough time to hear from everyone during the meeting?
You can write to us with your views to be included in our submission to the Home Office:
Bexhill-on-Sea Town Council Hub, 35 Western Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, TN40 1DU
The Town Council's Northeye Questions and Answers
Updated 4th April 2023
Why has Bexhill-on-Sea Town Council cancelled the meeting on Wednesday 5 April?
We have regretfully cancelled the meeting because we are aware that a large number of protestors intend to confront councillors both outside the Town Hall and in the meeting.
Whilst we completely empathise with our residents’ concerns about this proposal, we need to keep councillors, staff and the public safe.
There is limited capacity at the Town Hall, so we do not feel that it is a safe place to facilitate a meeting of this importance. We will organise a public meeting at a more suitable venue.
But wasn’t this a public meeting specifically about the Northeye proposals?
No, the meeting was the April meeting of the full town council, to conduct our regular statutory duties.
We will organise a public meeting focused entirely on Northeye at a more suitable venue in due course, and details will be made available shortly.
But cancelling the meeting means BoSTC isn’t listening to residents?
The Town Council is always here to listen and support residents. You can visit us at the Town Council Hub on Western Road between the hours of 10am-12.30pm and 1-2.30pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Email your local ward councillor. And keep an eye on our website and social media pages for any further updates.
When did BoSTC find out about the proposals?
The decision to select this site was made by the Home Office, and we were only told about the decision last week when it became public.
How is BoSTC working to address residents’ concerns?
We are fully aware of the deep concerns felt by Bexhill residents following the Home Office decision to house asylum seekers at Northeye.
Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council are working together, to understand and assess in more detail the impact this would have on our community. The Town Council will be liaising directly with them on behalf of residents.
Other councils are pushing back against proposals for similar sites in their areas – why aren’t we?
Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council are assessing the implications of the proposal and the impact it would have on the local community. They will then consider any further actions, and will ask the government to ensure the Home Office acts on all local concerns.
Both councils are working with councils in other parts of the country where potential sites have also been identified by the government and with councils where similar facilities already exist to learn from their experiences.
You can read their full statement here: https://www.rother.gov.uk/news/joint-statement-from-east-sussex-county-council-and-rother-district-council/
Is this plan definitely going ahead?
The proposal for Northeye is not yet finalised. The contract by the landowner to sell to the Home Office only exchanged on the week commencing 27 March and there are further legal matters to be completed. The Home Office must also complete site and toxicology testing.
I’m concerned about the proposals – what can I do?
We are encouraging residents to write to Huw Merriman MP with any proposals and ideas that you may think are useful or helpful. Mr Merriman is meeting with the Home Office and will take forward our issues.
When will the public meeting happen and who will attend?
We will post details of the meeting as soon as they are available. Please follow our website and social media to keep updated.
Where can I find out more information about the plans?
Huw Merriman MP has a full Q and A on his website here: https://www.huwmerriman.org.uk/northeye?fbclid=IwAR1XcpQf_ME_hsN64girM5rcSraaPj2XPvzYINsynehAxnF0QGXwCoMKdh0
Statement from the Town Council 30/03/2023
We are fully aware of the deep concerns felt by Bexhill residents following the Home Office decision to house asylum seekers at the Northeye site in Bexhill, a former prison and military training centre.
Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council are working together, to understand and assess in more detail the impact this would have on our community. The Town Council will be liaising directly with them on behalf of residents. We encourage residents to write to Huw Merriman MP with any proposals and ideas that you may think are useful or helpful in minimising the impact that this decision will have on our community. Mr Merriman is meeting with the Home Office and will take forward our issues.
The Town Council is here to listen and support residents, do keep an eye on our website and social media pages for any further updates. You can visit us at the Town Council Hub on Western Road between the hours of 10.00 – 12.30 and 1.00 – 2.30pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.