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Quantock School History: Press Archive

Village 'offers refugees ultimate in safe havens'

by Sean O'Neill
The Daily Telegraph, 14 June 2000

A FORMER boarding school in a quiet village could become "a centre of excellence" for asylum seekers and a model for similar schemes, a public inquiry was told yesterday. Quantock Lodge in Over Stowey, near Bridgwater, Somerset, would offer facilities for sport and education and the peace to recover from traumatic experiences. Martin Blakebrough, director of Kaleidoscope, the charity which is seeking permission to use the school as a hostel, said he believed that local people would come to accept the refugees.

Kaleidoscope is appealing against the decision by Sedgmoor council to reject its plans to place 74 asylum seekers, mostly young men, in the village, which has a population of 314. Mr Blakebrough, a Baptist minister, was interrupted by gasps and laughter from opponents in the public gallery as he gave evidence.

He said: "The centre would be the first of its kind to offer this level of facility. Our learning centre will provide essential education to help residents and enable them to be occupied creatively. With the right staff and support I have no doubt we will provide a centre of excellence which will become a model of good practice.

Opponents of the hostel are due to give evidence today.