RAF Scampton agreement reached allowing split usage of premises

Campaigners have been protesting outside the RAF Scampton gates since the government plans were announced in March 2023
-Credit: (Image: Lincolnshire Live)

An agreement over the future usage of the RAF Scampton site has been reached, it has been announced. The agreement - between the Home Office and West Lindsey District Council - follows months of negotiations.

According to the council, the dual use of the former RAF Scampton site will be temporary. The agreement in principle has been signed and has been hailed a "significant step" towards the council's vision to deliver its regeneration plans for the site through collaboration.

Under the agreement, outstanding legal action will be withdrawn. The Home Office, which has planning permission, (following a Special Development Order) can use the site for a fixed period of time, up to October 2027.

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It has agreed to house a significantly reduced number of asylum seekers. The agreement also allows the council to use a portion of the land to pursue the regeneration of the site with its preferred development partner, Scampton Holdings Limited.

The Home Office will retain just 10% of the site to temporarily house up to 800 asylum seekers – compared to the original 2,000. Leader of West Lindsey District Council, Cllr Trevor Young said the agreement is the culmination of weeks of negotiations with the Home Office and the result provides the community and investors greater certainty for the long-term future of the site.

He said: “The specific details of the agreement are still being finalised, but this agreement paves the way forward for the short-term and long-term use of the site. The Council have always been clear that whilst it is our view that the site is unsuitable for large-scale asylum accommodation, protecting the investment and regeneration plans for the site is a priority.

"This agreement provides the principles by which we can collaborate to unlock our investment and regeneration plan by working with the Home Office through a shared use proposal."

Cllr Young thanked the community for its continued support and said the council will focus its scrutiny and challenge to ensure the impact of asylum accommodation on the local community is as little as possible.

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has long been a vocal critic of the Home Office plans. He shared a letter which immigration minister Tom Pursglove MP sent him earlier this week explaining the arrangements.

It explained: "As part of the review of the capacity cap, lessons learned were taken into account from the increased occupancy on-site at Wethersfield and the feedback and concerns of the local community were listened to. Last month it was announced that the Home Office and WLDC were working together towards a joint agreement to give greater clarity on the use of the site for asylum seekers and the community.

"Those discussions have progressed well, and I am pleased to say that the Home Office and WLDC have now reached an agreement in principle which means the local authority will be able to start pursuing the regeneration of the site with their preferred development partner, whilst part of the site is used for Home Office accommodation. This will mean a dual use of the site, with about 10 per cent of the land used for Home Office accommodation and the rest for WLDC and the community.

"Through these proposals, between the Home Office and WLDC, all legal proceedings will be dropped and the department can press ahead with moving the first asylum seekers onto the site in summer 2024. The agreement in principle includes a provision that in October 2025 the Home Office will begin to reduce the accommodation footprint of the site by removing the modular accommodation on the hangar apron, with WLDC looking to occupy that area in April 2026.

"This agreement in principle will also enable WLDC to explore purchasing the whole site for use once asylum seekers have left in 2027. The agreement also depends on compliance with government rules for the disposal of Crown Land, and appropriate planning permission."

Mr Pursglove signed off: "We believe this is a significant and positive development for the local community and I look forward to working together with you as the regeneration plan moves forward."

The Home Office has committed to working with the council and Historic England to protect the heritage of the site, which is the former home of the Dambusters. Two listed hangars, the listed officers’ mess and Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s dog’s grave will be transferred to West Lindsey District Council once a legal agreement is in place, with the remaining listed hangars being transferred in 2026.

As previously announced, the £300 million of investment into the regeneration of the former RAF Scampton will preserve, protect, and enhance the site by providing aviation heritage, business, aerospace, space and education opportunities.

Sally Grindrod-Smith, Director of Planning, Regeneration and Communities at West Lindsey District Council said: “This marks a turning point in the Council’s journey to protect the £300 million investment and regeneration plan. Our strategy to challenge every detail and hold the Home Office to account has successfully delivered the conditions in which the opportunity to collaborate and deliver a temporary, shared use of the site now exists.

“This includes a significant reduction in operating capacity of the asylum accommodation centre, a vastly reduced Home Office footprint, and a suite of conditions on the Special Development Order designed to mitigate the impact of the development.”

The council will work with the Home Office to deliver a detailed legal framework which will provide the Council and the council's preferred development partner, Scampton Holdings Limited, with the arrangements necessary to finalise the required contracts and unlock the investment and regeneration plan.

Mrs Grindrod-Smith explained there is still a ‘huge amount of detail to work through. “I am confident that over the coming months we can continue to use our energy and passion to protect this site and to develop an innovative and creative shared use proposal which allows for the kickstarting of plans to bring significant investment into West Lindsey and Lincolnshire.”

The Council and Home Office will now work together at pace to jointly consider the details of delivering a temporary shared use of the site.