Watch: RAF Scampton meeting turns heated amid division over migrant camp

·3-min read
RAF Scampton could be used to house up to 1,500 asylum seekers - Getty Images
RAF Scampton could be used to house up to 1,500 asylum seekers - Getty Images

The division over plans to create a 1,500-strong migrant camp on the Dambusters’ former RAF base has been laid bare in a heated meeting of residents.

Hundreds of locals opposed to the Home Office’s plan packed into a primary school hall at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire on Monday night.

Several police reinforcements were called and it was standing room only as crowds spilled out of Pollyplatt Primary School.

Parents, business owners and workers at the site clashed over the idea which would scupper a separate £300 million deal to preserve the base’s historic runway as an operational aviation and aerospace hub and a new national heritage site.

West Lindsey District Council, which agreed the regeneration deal, announced during the meeting that it was "considering legal options" if the Home Office presses ahead.

None of the hundreds at the meeting supported Home Secretary Suella Braverman's plan for a new migrant camp, designed to reduce the £6 million daily taxpayer spend on hotels for small boat arrivals, but many differed over their views on migrants themselves.

At one point these divisions came to a head as a man shouted “let’s take this outside... I'll take migrants to your house” at another man, prompting him to confront him for “threatening” him amid finger pointing and a stunned audience.

To the sound of cheers, an audience member accused the Government of “s***ing on all those men (of the Dambusters), all of us – our history is getting thrown away for people who are illegal immigrants”.

There were shouts of "where's the MP!" from the audience when one member "demanded" the Home Office meet residents.

Campaigner Nigel Farage also held a separate meeting at the nearby Dambusters Inn pub.

At the main meeting, a worker of six years at RAF Scampton told the audience the runway was currently in “perfect condition” but it “is criminal” to throw away a development to preserve this, upskill the area and “to commemorate all those who flew and died from there”.

A parent in attendance accused the Home Office of “putting a lot of criminals on the doorstep” of a school, prompting the council to say it had flagged the need for extra security to the Home Office.

Sally Grindrod Smith, a planning director at WLDC who was answering all the questions, said she had “challenged them (the Home Office) to come down to the site and speak with you all because I don't think you can do that from a piece of paper in London”.

She added: “As it stands, the Government are adamant that no decision has been taken so there is a process to go through… should a decision be taken to progress, we are considering what legal options we have to challenge that plan.

“Until we get details of what that plan is, I cannot enact a legal process.”

She said the council would also be pushing to recover its full substantial costs on the development so far if the migrant camp was built.

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.

Some 40 historians have written to Ms Braverman calling for a rethink.