Council offices could be used as temporary Ukrainian refugee housing

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller. Picture: ROSE SAPEY

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller. Picture: ROSE SAPEY - Credit: Rose Sapey

Ukrainian refugees could be temporarily housed in council offices, with committee rooms potentially acting as classrooms for children.

South Norfolk Council (SNC) has been exploring ways to help support victims fleeing the Russian invasion.

Under plans being drawn up by officers, the authority's headquarters in Long Stratton and its neighbouring leisure centre could be used as a 'triage centre' or reception area, offering short-term accommodation.

Committee rooms could be turned into classrooms for child refugees, with the council chamber even being considered as a creche.

Officers would be deployed to help register Ukrainians for benefits, doctors' surgeries and schools and arrange work opportunities.

Around 30 Ukrainian families are already living in South Norfolk and the council is making plans to support their friends and relatives who may arrive here.

The authority believes this could mean it will have to support 500 people, in the short term - and possibly more.

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John Fuller, the council leader, outlined some of the early plans at a cabinet meeting on Monday morning.

He said he had spoken with officers to look into what could be done as a "matter of urgency".

“We cannot leave it to chance," he said. "A bus could turn up in a car park somewhere in our district and families could be allocated almost at random to a family.

“[Using the council site] is not such a crazy idea. We’ve got a canteen, we’ve got showers at our leisure centre opposite, we’ve got sports facilities, we’ve got open space, all the IT connections.

“Co-locating everybody here, at a location where we can process people, if that’s what’s needed, is the right thing to do.”

South Norfolk Council spent £590,000 in exit packages when it merged its leadership teams with Broad

South Norfolk Council is looking into how it can support Ukrainians fleeing the war with Russia - Credit: Archant

He admitted he did not know how the costs of processing and housing refugees would yet be funded, but said that the council must try to offer a period of stability while more permanent housing was arranged.

Trevor Holden, the director of South Norfolk Council, said it was encouraging to hear the enthusiasm from councillors and added that he had already spoken with the Homes Office to discuss what options the authority could take.

The cabinet unanimously agreed to ask officers to examine what the authority can do.

The offices are likely to have some beds put in place, but the expectation is that Ukrainian evacuees would stay there for only a couple of nights while housing is found for them.