A couple has been left “devastated” after having to cancel their wedding reception, which was due to be held at the same hotel that the Home Office is now using to house asylum seekers. James Proehl and his partner, Zoe Harbour, are bitterly disappointed as they can no longer celebrate their marriage at the Old Palace Lodge in Dunstable in Bedfordshire. It comes after the venue is closed for business and called off all events until further notice amid the Home Office’s efforts to shore up hotel rooms to put rooves over refugees’ heads.
The couple was due to be married in three months’ time and forked out a whopping £8,000 to secure the venue, inviting more than 200 guests to come and celebrate with them. Now, they are scrambling to rearrange their plans and cannot even change the date.
Mr Proehl told ITV: “We are devastated. Suddenly you’re having to re-do everything. We’ve got a church service booked so the date can’t be changed and we’ve got people flying from abroad and they’ve Booked flights and hotels in the area.
“Now we are just contacting every possible venue, trying to find something that’s in our price range and that’s still available.”
The heads of the hotel said in a statement that they had no choice but to take the home office up on its offer. It comes after the business faced enormous challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is still experiencing the hangover from the damage caused during the period.
Meanwhile, surging bills amid the energy crisis and rising inflation have also placed a financial strain on the hotel, giving it no option but to lease out rooms to the Government.
South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous said he raised concerns with the Home Office about using this particular hotel and claimed there were others that could “work better”, ITV reports.
He said: “I was told about this a few weeks ago and I immediately went to the Home Office and said ‘don’t do it’. They’ve already taken another hotel on the outskirts of Dunstable and we need The Old Palace Lodge for tourists, for business travelers and for family events.
“I said ‘please, please, please don’t do it – there are other hotels which would work better.’ The Home Office did not take account of any of that.”
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However, this case is not an isolated incident as wedding cancellations are beginning to appear as a more common fixture while the Home Office scrambles to shore up space for refugees in the UK.
Back in November 2022, the BBC reported that Lucie Campbell and Simon Pritchard had to cancel their wedding plans scheduled for December, despite booking a venue more than a year in advance.
Ms Campbell told the BBC: “The hotel manager and wedding coordinator said it was out of their hands. We were just in shock. We didn’t really have a response.
“I felt awful for them, especially the wedding coordinator as she had to break the news.
“We had to get our heads around it. We had been on countdown and everything was done, all the suppliers booked, hair, make-up, flowers, everything.”
The Home Office has previously said that the use of hotels is a short-term measure and is being used to provide safe and secure accommodation.