The Nayland Rock Hotel
"Margate Waterfront" means, to me, Westbrook and the Lido and everything in between including the Marine Parade, Dreamland, Margate Station and the Old Town and High Street. Thanet District Council and Kent County Council are investing a huge amount, not only in terms of hard cash but also in terms of officer time and political will, to bring about the regeneration of this entire area. It is a massive undertaking and it will take time but, when successful, it will transform the future of Margate and the wider Thanet as a business and visitor location.
In the heart of this area lies the Nayland Rock Hotel. For far too many years, and until a Conservative administration threatened compulsory purchase, it lay fire-damaged and largely derelict. Re-furbished it once again opened its doors to visitors and I recall attending Joe and Eva Jagger`s golden wedding party there.
Then came Migrant Helpline and asylum seekers and for some time the hotel has provided shelter for those waiting to have their claims determined. Initially, there were considerable problems but over a period of time the town and the immigrant community have reached an accommodation and learned to live in reasonable harmony.
All of that and the future of the regeneration plan have potentially been placed in jeopardy by a Home Office proposal to place asylum seekers whose claims have failed in the hotel while awaiting deportation. The justification for this proposal is that "we are responding to pressure from campaign groups not to place families in detention" according to the senior Border and Immigration Agency official negotiating this deal for the Home Office.
In fact, these negotiations have, according to the official, Mr. Oppenheim, been under way for some eight months. During the whole of that time neither the Leader of Thanet District Council nor I as the elected Member of Parliament have been consulted. Indeed, we were told late last Thursday night that a Home Office announcement of the plan was scheduled for this week!
Let us be clear: none of us have any burning desire to see women and children awaiting removal from the United Kingdom being held in prisons from which convicted criminals are already being released as a result of this government`s failed criminal justice system.
Neither, though, do we wish to see a prime hotel site, the Nayland Rock, turned into a detention centre.
We are now told that there will be "no security" and that "this will not be a prison". So we are, according to the Director of Migrant Helpline, expected to believe that because failed asylum seekers have been told to stay there they will wait patiently and quietly until their turn comes to be returned to their country of origin! Really?
We live in what is still one of the most socially deprived areas of South East England. We are making a Herculean effort to turn Thanet around and to attract business and investment in modern leisure facilities. We are tired of having the social problems of London and the Greater London area dumped upon us by authorities that are unwilling or unable to make provision for their own social needs. We simply do not need this further departmental insensitivity.
The Nayland Rock Hotel is a fine building in a superb and important location with stunning views across the bay, out to sea and towards the famous "turner Sunsets", It will have a key role to play in the future of our Town. It must not be allowed to become either a detention centre or a "house in multiple occupation". If necessary, the local authorities must once again place a compulsory purchase order on it, acquire it and put it to a use that is compatible with the regeneration plan.