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Quantock School History: Press Archive

Refugee centre is approved

by Peter Foster
The Daily Telegraph, 9 August 2000

PLANS to convert a former school into a centre for asylum seekers in a tiny Somerset village were given official approval yesterday despite local opposition.

The Kaleidoscope Project, a London-based Baptist charity, was given permission to use a disused boarding school in the village of Over Stowey (pop 314) to house 74 asylum seekers.

The scheme, turned down in June by the local district council, was opposed by a vocal majority of residents who argued that Over Stowey, which has no pub, shop or post office, was too remote and unsuitable for the project.

However, after a review of that decision, the planning inspectorate granted permission yesterday on condition that all facilities, including a swimming pool, gymnasium, sports hall and dormitories, were maintained.

The case was viewed as a legal test for the Government's attempts to disperse asylum seekers, following sporadic trouble in towns such as Dover where asylum seekers were concentrated.

For the residents of Over Stowey, the ruling may be academic after the owners of the Quantock Lodge made clear that they were no longer willing to allow the property to be used as a centre for immigrants.

The population of Over Stowey was accused of racism and xenophobia following opposition to the Kaleidoscope Project. However, last night the Rev Phil Denison, who broadly supported the project, said the community would welcome the asylum seekers. He said: "Many will extend the hand of friendship."