Fife community’s refugee housing proposal rejected

Kingsbarns.
Kingsbarns.

Fife Council has rejected suggestions for housing in a north east Fife village to home refugees.

Kingsbarns Community Council suggested earlier this year that Fife Council should purchase two houses in a new development and offer them to refugees, should there be no local interest.

Fife Council said it would consider the suggestion at the time, describing it as “a kind and generous offer”. However, it has now rejected it, citing three reasons.

The local authority claims the refugees would need to be near their peers to avoid isolation; near schools and health facilities; and need access to halal shops and mosques.

The rejection has been criticised by the community council.

Martin Dibbs, secretary, described the reasons given as “spurious”.

He added: “The suggestion was turned down by the council. They say it’s impractical.”

“Regarding isolation – there will be two families and people in Kingsbarns are more than happy to make them welcome.

“Our community development trust has offered to raise funds to furnish the houses.”

Mr Dibbs stated that refugees would be able to access halal shops and mosques, adding: “Kingsbarns isn’t at the end of the world.”

He also stated: “There’s a school right next to the development and our nearest health facilities are in St Andrews.

“The reasons all seem to be based on assumptions.

“We want a commitment from Fife Council that if there is no local interest, the houses would be offered to refugee families.”

Gavin Smith, Housing Access and Homelessness Service manager, said: “Kingsbarns Community Council’s offer to help refugee families is both commendable and appreciated.

“The dialogue between the community council, head of Housing Services and convener of the council’s Community and Housing Services Committee has led to a commitment to purchase two homes in Kingsbarns. This will support our Affordable Housing Programme and increase housing opportunities within the area.

“However, the council’s housing allocation policy must be applied consistently and fairly. There are many people in need of housing and we can’t commit to using these properties for a particular customer group.

“We have already housed 91 refugees in Fife using an approach agreed by our local Syrian Core Co-ordination Group – a partnership of public and third sector organisations. Our approach to finding homes for refugees has been informed by experience of working with the Home Office, the national framework and direct, ongoing contact with Syrian families and their representatives. Our main concern is to meet the needs of each household, while being able to support integration across various communities on a planned basis.”