A hotel has once again become the centre of controversy, after Croydon council approved it’s bid to create an extension on the property.
Despite it making headlines last year for hosting hundreds of asylum seekers with no prior consultation, Queens Hotel’s bid was accepted last Thursday.
The hotel on Church Road, close to Crystal Palace, has been in operation for over 150 years. It more recently caused upset within the community after the Home Office block-booked the entire hotel for four months with no previous warning, to house hundreds of people from war torn countries.
The owner, businessman Gauhar Nawab applied for the extension in August, hoping to add another 24 bedrooms to the property, where it was found up to nine people had been sharing one room while it was block-booked.
The Daily Mail reported in September last year that Nawab, 73, reportedly negotiated up to £500,000 of taxpayers money in a deal where he crammed hundreds of asylum seekers into the hotel.
The Telegraph reported in the same month that housing inspectors had found 600 asylum seekers in the then 98-bedroom property.
Local residents and MP’s sought to block the extension.
Labour MP for Croydon North Steve Reed was one of those not in favour of the councils plans.
Reed wrote to James Brokenshire MP, the Minister for Security and Immigration last September, after being alarmed by findings from Croydon Council’s Housing Enforcement Team, which revealed the extent of the situation.
The letter stated: “I am worried about the safety of the people living in the hotel, the sudden conversion of the hotel into a B&B hostel without consultation with local people, and the impact of such a large influx of unsettled asylum seekers on the local community.
“I am very disappointed that the local community and elected representatives were never consulted about plans to house over 600 asylum seekers in the area.”
Reed voiced disappointment about the councils approval on twitter, saying: “very disappointed it got approval. Not what local people wanted – especially after asylum-seeker incident.”
Reed discovered that Nawab also owned Gilroy Court Hotel in Croydon, which was part of an investigation by BBC newsnight into homeless families being forced to live in squalid conditions.
In October 2012, the BBC news website reported: “The building was home to six households, each housed in one room, with a total of 17 people who shared one kitchen, three toilets and two baths.”
Wayne Lawlor, Labour Member for South Norwood, also objected to the extension on grounds of over-development and traffic congestion.
He tweeted: “Lovely emails from residents to say thank you despite disappointing outcome. Sorry I couldn’t do more!”
Patrons of the hotel during the four months had been accused of causing disruption in the local area, prompting many local people to contact the council and local MP’s.
Eventually, local campaigners backed by Reed managed to force the Home Office to remove 791 people from the Queens Hotel who have since relocated them.
Nawab declined to comment.