Project developer about concerns about migrant workers grain factory Hoogeveen: ‘Take sounds seriously’

Plans for the arrival of 162 apartments for more than four hundred migrant workers on the site of the former Agrifirm grain factory in Hoogeveen are causing unrest among local residents. They fear nuisance. Last night they were able to ask questions to the initiators during a walk-in evening in the town hall.

On the spot along the Dr. Anton Philipsstraat wants project developer SVZ-advies to build the houses. The company does this together with E&A living. An employment agency that will take care of the housing of migrant workers on site.

Neighbors think there will be problems. They fear noise nuisance, crime, pollution and parking problems. Henk-Jan Zwiggelaar of SVZ advice says to take the sounds seriously. “The intention is that we will soon set up a consultation group with local residents. Precisely to discuss these kinds of themes.”

But whether that will help, some objectors wonder. Entrepreneur Ramon Mol, who lives nearby, said earlier that he fears that there will be a bottleneck towards the center. He thinks that many migrant workers will go to the city center at the same time to do some shopping or to grab a bite to eat. As a result, according to the Hoogevener, a larger area could be affected by nuisance.

Zwiggelaar does not think this is a correct conclusion. “Migrant workers are also people and can come and go as they please. It’s not like we can just lock these people up. If you or I were to go to Poland to rent a house and work there, you can do that. Of course they must be given the space to just do an errand, I also wonder whether they will all go to the center.”

SVZ has already organized meetings on a number of occasions. Zwiggelaar also says he has heard noises that a fence should be built around the location. “But of course that’s not normal. They’re people, not animals.”

Hoogeveen says that extra living space for labor migrants is needed. The municipality wants to exclude temporary workers from abroad from the city center and from the center of the large villages. The workers often still live in regular homes and that causes problems. They compete with other home seekers and regularly cause nuisance.

The project developer hopes that the conversion of the grain factory can do something about these problems. “In this way, the housing market in Hoogeveen will regain some calm. It is a social problem. The municipality has also announced that they would rather not house this group of people at recreation parks. Then the Graanfabriek is precisely suitable for the reception of migrant workers.” Zwiggelaar continues.

The developers, together with the municipality, had previously held talks with local residents. In the beginning that was with about eight households. During those conversations, local residents indicated that they thought it was strange that more people were not invited. Two meetings later it was suddenly very busy. Local residents had invited more people themselves. For residents there was still a lot unclear and that is why they felt surprised by the news.

Zwiggelaar indicates that the process could have been better. “But it is of course logical that you first speak to a small group of local residents. Then you expand it further and the rest will follow. That is also the reason that we have a walk-in meeting tonight. So that people can ask questions about anything and everything what they’re up to.”

The houses are mainly intended for temporary stay. Residents can stay for a minimum of seven nights and a maximum of six months. The municipality has announced that a hotline will be set up for local residents in case they have complaints about the shelter, or if they have signals that the accommodation is not in order.

Some residents are concerned about safety. They have been told there will be one security guard. They think that is not enough, since there is room for 420 people. “That story is not correct,” Zwiggelaar explains. “There will not be one security guard, but four managers will come. They take turns and keep an eye on things.

The protestors have now submitted a petition to the municipality. It was signed by 300 people. There have also been several objections to the plans from local residents. The permit application for the project is currently pending. The municipality of Hoogeveen must make a decision on 24 March.