West Lindsey District Council has been advised by the Home Office that the asylum proposal for RAF Scampton has changed, with it now being understood that asylum seekers arriving at RAF Scampton would come directly from the asylum detention centre at Manston, Kent.
The Home Office has also confirmed the site would not be ready for occupation until mid-August at the earliest, despite claiming only a week ago that the first service users would arrive by 3 July 2023.
The Council’s position remains that RAF Scampton is not a suitable site for asylum seekers, nor is it a deliverable or cost-effective solution to tackling the immigration issues faced by the country at this time.
Cllr Trevor Young, Leader of West Lindsey District Council, said: “It appears the Home Office does not have a clear and deliverable plan for accommodating asylum seekers at RAF Scampton. Initially we were told the site would be up and running by April. We are now three months in and there is still no delivery plan. We firmly believe this is because you cannot make RAF Scampton safe for the purpose of housing asylum seekers.
“The news that asylum seekers would now not be coming from hotels is concerning. Not only does this totally undermine the Government’s argument that large sites are about reducing the dependency on hotels, but it changes any planning assumptions we have been able to make around the delivery of services and mitigating the impact on our communities.”
Since the announcement of plans to use RAF Scampton as asylum centre emerged in March this year, the Council has been clear that any use of the site would put at risk the delivery of the £300 million investment plan.
West Lindsey District Council’s Director of Planning, Regeneration and Communities is Sally Grindrod Smith. She said: “As soon as the Home Office proposals for RAF Scampton emerged, we made it very clear that there was a significant risk to the investment plan and that the site was not deliverable in the timescales and for the purpose proposed.”
The Council has worked with the Ministry of Defence for more than three years to develop the plan for the site, post its use as an RAF base. As a result, the Council is in the unique position of fully understanding the constraints of the site and the deliverability of the Home Office proposals in a timely and cost effective way.
The site’s decades as an operational base have left behind significant risks and contamination, including asbestos within the Grade 2 listed hangars, aviation fuel leakage across areas of the site, and the need to make safe and secure more than 100 derelict former operational buildings. In addition, it is likely that water and electrical services would require upgrading and there are requirements for the management and maintenance of the important heritage assets on site.
Cllr Young said: “We recognise that there are still many unanswered questions about these proposals and ongoing concerns within the community. Please know we are doing all we can behind the scenes, and we continue to stress the importance to the Home Office of them keeping residents and businesses updated on their asylum centre plans for RAF Scampton. We are continuing to press the Home Office for more details including urging them to engage proactively and honestly with our community and we will continue to keep residents updated.
“Whilst we fundamentally oppose the use of RAF Scampton as an asylum centre, it is important that we prepare to support our community and any asylum seekers should our legal proceedings not be successful.
“We are continuing to work with local partners including health providers, police, fire and social services, to plan for this to ensure any provision is safe, legal and compliant and mitigates any pressure on local services and the impact on the local community.”
The Council is also currently working closely with Braintree District Council and the other parties involved in the three judicial reviews brought against the Home Office’s large site proposals.
The Council have today received confirmation from the Court of Appeal that the application to intervene in the Braintree District Council appeal hearing on 12th June has been approved, despite Home Office objections.
Furthermore, confirmation has been received from the High Court that the permission hearing on all three judicial reviews (which will determine whether the parties are granted permission to proceed with the judicial reviews) will be heard on 12 and 13 July 2023.