Home Office told to stop work at former RAF base set to house asylum seekers

Politics

The Home Office has been ordered to stop work converting a former military base into an accommodation site for asylum seekers, over concerns planning conditions have been breached.

West Lindsey District Council has issued the government with an enforcement notice and stop notice in regards to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

It means work must cease at the former airbase, which was set to be used to house 2,000 asylum seekers.

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Sally Grindrod-Smith, director of planning regeneration, said at a site visit last week, officers observed a number of issues considered to be planning breaches.

She said “significant works” were being done on site “that were not considered as part of the Home Office’s environmental impact assessment screening request”.

“This means that the impact of the development has not been properly assessed,” she said.

She added: “Additionally, it is clear from the scale of works on site that this development is not limited to a temporary period of 12 months.”

The move follows a temporary stop notice being issued to the Home Office on 8 September, which related to listed buildings and archaeology on the site.

The council deemed there had been a breach of planning controls with certain works having the potential to cause irreversible damage to important heritage assets.

The new notices were issued after a further site visit on 14 September, which uncovered what the council deemed to be further breaches.

It is an offence to fail to adhere to a stop notice, which along with the enforcement notice has been issued pursuant to sections 172 and 183 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

RAF Scampton is the former home of The Red Arrows aerobatics display team and the Dambusters – the squadron that carried out one of the Second World War’s most famous air raids.

There has been resistance to the move to convert it into asylum accommodation from the outset, with local leaders fearful it will see the scrapping of a £300m deal to turn the base into a heritage site.

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Over the summer, the council was given permission to bring a High Court challenge against the Home Office, with a judicial review set for 31 October and 1 November.

Councillor Trevor Young, leader of the local authority, said: “From the moment the decision to use RAF Scampton as an asylum accommodation centre was made, the council have been clear that this is not an appropriate site for this purpose.

“Use of the site for asylum accommodation puts at risk the £300m investment proposal.

“It is incredibly disappointing that despite repeated assurances that the site would be safe, legal and compliant, the Home Office has failed to secure appropriate planning permission or to adequately assess the impact of their proposals.

“It is an offence to contravene the stop notice and I urge the Home Office to cease all works in line with this legal action.”

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The notices threaten to be the latest setback in plans to find cheaper accommodation to house asylum seekers away from hotels, which ministers say is costing the tax payer £6m a day.

As well as military bases, the government also wants to use barges and ultimately hopes to deport people to Rwanda, but the schemes have been mired in difficulty and delay.

Sky News has contacted the Home Office for comment.

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