CONTENTIOUS plans to turn a former failing nursing home near Warrington into a hostel for asylum seekers have been axed.

Serco won planning permission from Halton Council to convert the former Lilycross Care Centre on Wilmere Lane in Widnes which used to house 60 patients into temporary accommodation for 120 asylum seekers.

Just weeks after announcing that the hostel was due to open in late summer, the company has pulled out of the development "for commercial reasons".

In a statement released today, Serco said: "Serco announces that it no longer intends to develop the former nursing home in Halton as an interim accommodation for asylum seekers.

"The decision has been made for commercial reasons following detailed inspections that were undertaken once the statutory planning, contractual and environmental requirements for the building were completed.

"These inspections revealed a number of deficits to the building that were not previously evident and that would prove too expensive to remediate."

Jenni Halliday, Serco’s contract director for Compass, said: “Serco will continue to provide accommodation for asylum seekers across Halton, which will be dispersed in the community.

"We are grateful for the support we have received from the council and the vast majority of the community as we work towards finding appropriate accommodation for these vulnerable asylum seekers in our care.”

The decision has been welcomed by campaigners who have fought the plans for several years.

Around 3,500 residents signed a petition to stop the development.

Campaigner Karen Ford, a member of the Save Lilycross action group, said the hostel would have breached new building regulations.

Karen, 37, from Farnworth, said: “This is a complete and utter victory.

“If they had listened to us from day one it would have saved time, money and effort.

“A change of use of this building means they can’t discharge sewage into a dry ditch.

“It would have come out as untreated raw sewage into Bowers Brook and been a catastrophe for residents living nearby.

“We are glad they have finally realised that for planning reasons this couldn’t possibly go ahead.

“We have had massive support for our campaign. We can’t thank people enough.

“We have waited two years for this.”