Plans to convert a hotel in Leytonstone into a hostel for asylum seekers have been withdrawn. 

Jason Flack had applied for permission on April 22 to change the use of the Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel, in Whipps Cross Road, from a public hotel to a hostel. 

In a design statement, submitted to Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee, he said the council had refused several proposals to “improve” the historic hotel – including a new outdoor dining area – and he was now considering alternatives. 

He wrote: “The applicant has tried various avenues to improve the property and to maintain the viability of its continued use as a hotel, which has been operating for over 40 years. 

“With the council’s refusal of the previous proposals, the applicant must now explore other options to maintain the viability of the business.” 

The application had been rescinded by May 30, though no reason as to why was given. 

The hotel, named after the beloved British filmmaker, dates back to 1896. Originally a pair of villas, it was turned into a hotel in 1980 and remains the only one in Leytonstone Village. 

Scores of hotels across the country were closed to the public in order to house asylum seekers, after a spike in migrant crossings in early 2023.

In March this year, the Home Office announced it would begin winding down the programme and would no longer be procuring new hotels for use. If the plans for Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel had been approved, there was no guarantee they would have been fruitful. 

Residents in Leytonstone were divided over the idea of converting the landmark hotel into a hostel for asylum seekers, with some arguing it could harm nearby homes and businesses.  

A spokesperson for Forest Residents Association (FORA) said: “Whilst recognising the role that the local community can play to welcome and support potential asylum seekers, many of whom may well go on to contribute positively to our community, there is also the question of pragmatic management and real world potential impact.”

Concerns focused on the cultural significance of the building. 

One resident said prior to the withdrawal: “It’s terrible that a beautiful pub hotel, which has such a great history and has been recently done up magnificently, is basically for the cosh.”

Others supported the proposals. Another resident, who lives directly behind the hotel, said: “It has been underused since the Covid lockdown [in 2020] and, as a refugee hostel, it would provide a socially useful amenity. 

“I am aware that some people might worry about the possible impact on the neighbourhood. We must remember that refugees are usually fleeing oppressive regimes. Let us welcome them, as we would hope to be welcomed if our lives were disrupted by wars and repression.”

Refugee Action, a national charity, attacked the use of hotels in March 2023, saying they were “de facto detention centres”.

Though the proposals were withdrawn, the FORA spokesperson said it would keep a “watching brief” on the hotel and its future.

The Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel was approached for comment.