Red Arrows could move if migrant camp on Dambusters’ RAF base goes ahead

The base at RAF Scampton could have 1,500 migrants living there if the Home Office decides to buy the site - Martin Pope/Getty Images Europe
The base at RAF Scampton could have 1,500 migrants living there if the Home Office decides to buy the site - Martin Pope/Getty Images Europe

The Red Arrows could be forced out of their home base by plans to turn the Dambusters’ former home into a migrant camp, council leaders have warned.

The RAF’s elite aerial display team may have to find a new home because they would no longer be allowed to fly over the Dambusters’ old base at RAF Scampton if there were 1,500 migrants living there, say the council chiefs. It currently provides one of the few areas with clear air space where the Red Arrows can train.

It is the latest blow to the migrant plans after 40 of Britain’s leading historians joined local residents and campaigners in opposing the move to turn RAF Scampton into a migrant detention centre as a “scandalous desecration of immeasurable recklessness”.

Councillor Roger Patterson, Tory vice chair of West Lindsey district council, said the community had spent years working to preserve the Dambusters’ base, culminating in a £300 million deal to turn the site into a centre of aerospace technology and create 1,000 jobs while preserving its rich heritage.

However, he warned this would be scuppered if the Home Office bought the site in order to turn it into a migrant detention centre.

RAF Scampton - Martin Pope/Getty Images Europe
RAF Scampton - Martin Pope/Getty Images Europe

“The Government flagship policy is levelling up and this is a £300 million regeneration project,” said Mr Patterson. “Yet, they are willing to trash the whole lot by plucking this site out of thin air to house migrants.”

He said it would also be a “tragedy for Lincolnshire” if the Red Arrows had to quit their nearby base in Waddington. “They use Scampton to fly over and practice which would not be possible if the migrant centre plans go ahead.”

RAF Scampton is one of a series of sites being considered by the Home Office to reduce the £6 million a day cost of housing 51,000 asylum seekers in nearly 400 hotels. Rishi Sunak said in November that they aimed to move at least 10,000 out in the near future but have run into local opposition campaigns at proposed sites.

The 617 squadron - the Dambusters - was formed at the airfield from where 19 Lancaster bombers departed for the famous raid in 1943 to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley in Germany’s industrial heartlands with “bouncing bombs” designed by the renowned engineer Barnes Wallis.

Campaigners led by local MP Sir Edward Leigh also met Robert Jenrick, the Immigration Minister, on Monday to warn that the migrant scheme would scupper £300 million plans to preserve the base’s historic runway as an operational aviation and aerospace hub and a new national heritage site.