The Government purchased a former prison earmarked for asylum-seeker accommodation for £9 million more than it was bought for a year earlier, it has been claimed.
Former HMP Northeye, in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, was bought by the Government for £15.3 million on September 21, 2023, according to a Freedom of Information request released by the Save Northeye campaign group on Wednesday.
The site’s land registry shows the “derelict” brownfield site had been bought for just £6.31 million on August 11, 2022 by company Brockwell Group Bexhill LLP, according to refugee accommodation campaign group One Life to Live.
Questions have been raised by the campaign groups as to why, despite no apparent work being done prior to the sale, it was able to make a “staggering” £8.99 million profit on the site in 13 months.
The sale comes as the Northeye site was announced as a proposed location to house 1,200 people in March this year.
Jeff Newnham, of the Save Northeye campaign, said: “There is no logical geographical reason why Northeye, in one of the UK’s most expensive areas for land, should ever have been purchased by this Government.
“How did the Government allow itself to be sold, at taxpayers’ expense, a site so wholly inappropriate? A site where the only real beneficiary seems to be the vendor, which made a whopping £9 million profit.”
On October 9, Rother District Council leader Doug Oliver said it was “disappointing” that neither the council or residents were informed of the sale.
No final decision of the use of the site has been made.
According to the Home Office’s factsheet on its plans for Northeye, it is working on proposals to use the disused prison as asylum accommodation and is exploring it being used for detention purposes.
Campaigners also question whether the cost of the site and work needed to make it operational could be less than paying for hotel accommodation.
Nicola David, of One Life to Live, said: “The Government cannot claim on the one hand to be solving the problem of the hotel cost when on the other hand it is buying up large tracts of expensive yet tainted land and planning major new builds.
“It’s time for greater transparency with the taxpayer, who ultimately foots these bills.
“It is also time to recognise that we should revert to the pre-Covid system of allowing asylum-seekers to live among us in the community, and not containing them in bizarre camps behind fences and barbed wire.”
It is understood the Home Office does not comment on commercial matters.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to the removal of foreign criminals and those with no right to be in the UK, while providing value for money for the taxpayer.”
“We are exploring the use of the Bexhill site for detention purposes and assessments are being undertaken to consider the feasibility.
“We are working with local stakeholders to ensure that any facility is delivered in a way which minimises the impact on the local community.