Home Office told to stop all work on former RAF base set to house migrants

A district council has barred the Home Office from carrying out any work to turn a former RAF base into an accommodation site for migrants, accusing it of carrying out work that has not been assessed.

West Lindsey District Council has issued an enforcement notice and stop notice to the Home Office, which means all work must cease at RAF Scampton.

The former airbase, in Lincolnshire, is set to be used to house 2,000 asylum seekers but there has been resistance to the move.

The notices mean the Home Office must stop using the site as accommodation for asylum seekers, cease works related to Portakabins, stop all intrusive groundworks and restore the site to its original condition.

RAF Scampton was chosen along with RAF Wethersfield in Braintree, Essex, to house migrants (Callum Parke/PA)
RAF Scampton was chosen along with RAF Wethersfield in Braintree, Essex, to house migrants (Callum Parke/PA)

Sally Grindrod-Smith, director of planning regeneration and communities at the council, said it was “clear” from the works taking place on the site that the Home Office intended to use the site for more than 12 months.

She said: “At the site visit last week, officers observed significant works 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.

“Emergency permitted development rights … are only available to the Government in a genuine emergency, which has not been proven and when a negative environmental impact assessment screening decision is in place.

“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 September 8, related to listed buildings and archaeology on the site, after the council deemed there had been a breach of planning controls.

The new notices were issued after a further site visit on September 14, 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.

Councillor Trevor Young, leader of the council, 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 £300 million 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.

Sir Edward Leigh
Sir Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough (Richard Townshend/UK Parliament/PA)

“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.”

On Tuesday, the MP for Gainsborough Sir Edward Leigh threatened to call for an official review into the Home Office for “misapplying public money” over its plans for the former airbase, claiming the department “fiddled” with figures to show the scheme was value for money.

A Home Office spokesperson said the department was carefully considering the implications of the stop notice, but that it continued to listen to the views of local communities over the site.

They said: “Delivering accommodation on surplus military sites provides cheaper and more orderly, suitable accommodation for those arriving in small boats whilst helping to reduce the use of hotels.

“We are confident our project, which will house asylum seekers in basic, safe and secure accommodation, meets the planning requirements.”

RAF Scampton was formerly home to the famed 617 Squadron, who were involved in the Dambuster raid in the Second World War, and the Red Arrows.

The council said it had expected the site to be fully operational as a home for migrants by December this year.

The authority lost an injunction bid in May to halt the move, but in July was given the green light to bring a High Court challenge.

A High Court date has now been confirmed for the judicial review, which will take place on October 31 and November 1.