A High Court judge has granted an ongoing injunction to block the Home Office from using dozens of Norfolk hotels to house asylum seekers.

Judge Justice Holgate's decision means seafront hotels in Great Yarmouth cannot be used by contractor Serco as accommodation for asylum seekers - a move described as a "victory for common sense" by the town's MP Brandon Lewis.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council had obtained a temporary injunction last month, after Serco said it wanted to use the Villa Rose Hotel, in Princes Road, as contingency accommodation for migrants - due to large numbers of asylum seekers arriving in the UK by boat.

The authority argued that seafront hotels were covered by a specific council policy and should not be used, as that constituted a change of planning use from hotels to hostels.

The policy does not permit that change.

Eastern Daily Press: The Villa Rose Hotel in Great YarmouthThe Villa Rose Hotel in Great Yarmouth (Image: Newsquest)

The borough council said it had adopted that policy to protect the town's tourism economy, so the 59 hotels within it should be available for use by holidaymakers.

And Mr Justice Holgate agreed, allowing the interim injunction a fellow High Court judge had granted to remain in place.

He said: "The location of the hotel within the seafront policy area is important.

"It's plain from the evidence of the Home Office and Serco that no consideration was given to planning policies to see if the site lies within an area subject to strong and clear development control, so as to give rise to a breach of planning control."

Mr Justice Holgate said there were other hotels in the town, not within the area covered by the council's policy - known as GY6 - where asylum seekers had been housed.

But he agreed with the council that its policy regarding seafront hotels was designed to safeguard the town's tourist economy.

He said: "The hotel would be closed to the general public, both in terms of accommodation and the restaurant.

"There would be little or no expenditure by asylum seekers in the town, which strikes me as a particularly relevant factor."

Mr Justice Holgate said the hotel's owners had been "flagrant" in offering it up to government contractors for use for asylum seekers, when there had been previous enforcement action by the borough council in 2006 to stop its use as a hotel being changed.

The judge also highlighted evidence that the length of time asylum seekers are spending in contingency accommodation while they wait for the next stage of the process had increased from 21 days to 158 days - almost six months.

Because of the temporary injunction, no asylum seekers had been housed at the Villa Rose and the ongoing one means Serco will not be allowed to use it or others within the area covered by the council's policy.

A Great Yarmouth Borough Council spokesperson said: "The council is pleased that Mr Justice Holgate has recognised the importance of the specific planning policies the council has in place to prevent hotels in its prime tourism area being used as hostels, and has therefore ruled that this merits further consideration by the courts.

"To that end, the current injunction remains in place until a trial in the new year.

"We look forward to having the opportunity to put our case fully, ensuring that those hotels in the most important and sensitive part of this seaside town are protected and can continue contributing to our vital tourist economy.

"It is important to emphasise that we have repeatedly encouraged the Home Office and its agents Serco to enter into a dialogue with us so that we can help identify more appropriate locations to temporarily house asylum seekers.

"Regardless of today’s decision, we remain open to an informed and constructive dialogue."

Eastern Daily Press: Great Yarmouth MP Brandon LewisGreat Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis (Image: UK Parliament)

The bid by Serco to house asylum seekers in more Yarmouth hotels had been resisted by Yarmouth's Conservative MP Mr Lewis.

Following Mr Justice Holgate's judgement, he said: "This is a clear victory for common sense.

"It is simply wrong to damage tourism areas by requisitioning hotels to house asylum seekers whilst their claims are processed.

"This policy doesn’t solve the issue, just creates another one."

He said it had taken "brave leadership" by the borough council and its leader Carl Smith to pursue the legal action.