Historic Dambusters building could be listed to thwart migrant camp plans
The historic Dambusters officers’ mess could be listed as a national treasure after an application by the local council as part of an effort to thwart plans to turn the base into a camp for asylum seekers.
West Lindsey District Council, in Lincolnshire, is filing for listed status from Historic England to safeguard the mess building at RAF Scampton, from which 617 squadron – the Dambusters – flew their famous 1943 mission to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley with “bouncing bombs” designed by renowned engineer Barnes Wallis.
It will place extra duties on the Home Office to repair and preserve the structure if ministers go ahead with plans to use the base to house up to 1,500 migrants removed from hotels.
The council is also considering legal action to block the plan amid claims that a Home Office takeover of the 800-acre base would scupper a £300 million regeneration deal to turn it into an aerospace hub and national heritage site, creating 1,000 jobs while preserving its heritage.
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is this week expected to announce plans to turn RAF Scampton and RAF Wethersfield, in Braintree, Essex, into asylum centres as part of efforts to end the use of hotels for migrants, currently costing nearly £7 million a day to house 51,000 people. Ministers are also seeking to secure disused ferries to house migrants.
The West Lindsey council campaign to preserve its regeneration plan and block the asylum scheme has been backed by 40 of Britain’s leading historians and a petition signed by more than 40,000 people.
In an open letter, the 40 historians, including Sir Antony Beevor, Sir Max Hastings and Dan Snow warned: “To erase Scampton’s heritage, rather than preserve, protect and enhance it further, would be a scandalous desecration of immeasurable recklessness.”
Last week marked the 80th anniversary of the formation of the Dambusters squadron, and Sally Grindrod-Smith, the council’s director of planning, said: “The council is very concerned about the future of the former officers’ mess.
“The building appears to be deteriorating rapidly and, without due care and attention, this important historic feature of the site could be lost forever. That is why the council has taken decisive action and made an application to Historic England to seek listed building status.”
The building, constructed in late 1936, is a type B mess, one of three standard designs for officers’ messes constructed as part of a major expansion of UK airfields, a policy that enabled the country to win the Battle of Britain.
The council said the original features, character and fabric of the building are of a distinct quality and largely intact.
In its heyday, the building was used for accommodating officers as well as hosting formal functions. In 1943, HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited to commend the crews in support of 617 Squadron after the Dambusters raid.
Reader Service: Retrace the story of the Dambusters with Paul Beaver on an exclusive tour