West Lindsey District Council and City of Lincoln Council have expressed concerns to the newly appointed Home Secretary on asylum accommodation proposals at RAF Scampton.
The leaders of West Lindsey District Council and City of Lincoln Council have jointly addressed a letter to the Secretary of State for the Home Office, James Cleverly MP.
In the letter, Cllr Trevor Young and Cllr Ric Metcalfe, request a meeting with Mr Cleverly to discuss the government’s plans and share their perspectives on the potential impact on the local community. They say that despite attempts to work with the Home Office for the last 10 months, many questions remain unanswered.
As previously reported, The Home Office plans to use the site to accommodate 2,000 asylum seekers.
Cllr Trevor Young, Leader of West Lindsey District Council, said:
“We have been clear from day one that Scampton is not an appropriate location for a large-scale asylum accommodation centre. I wanted to be frank with the new Home Secretary that our small rural community at Scampton has serious concerns, which have not been addressed.
“Furthermore, the opportunity to secure a £300million regeneration and investment scheme remains on the table and we need to grab this with both hands. Now is the time for a sensible conversation.”
Cllr Ric Metcalfe added:
“Scampton is a self-evidently unsuitable site for what is proposed. We will be asking the new Home Secretary, in the strongest possible terms, to review the original decision to use this site for asylum accommodation.”
Both councils remain committed to engaging constructively with the Home Office to find mutually agreeable solutions.
Meanwhile, West Lindsey District Council, along with Braintree District Council and a resident from Weathersfield, is awaiting the outcome of a judicial review held at the High Court in London last month. The judicial review challenged the lawfulness of the government’s decision to develop the site as asylum accommodation is awaited.
West Lindsey District Council’s Director of Planning Regeneration and Communities, Sally Grindrod-Smith, said:
“The judicial review proceedings provided the Council, along with the other claimants in the case, the opportunity to set out to the judge the facts of the case.
“As part of my witness statement, I was able to ensure that the judge had sight of the challenges that our community is facing, and the scale of opportunity presented by the £300 million investment and regeneration plan. Additionally, we were able to provide a picture of the current reality on the site and set out the steps the Council has taken to enforce the rules of the planning system.”
During the course of the judicial review proceedings, the court heard how the Home Office intended to seek to secure longer term permission to use the site by way of a Special Development Order.
A Special Development Order (SDO) is an entirely unusual route for the securing of planning approval. It is a Statutory Instrument laid before Parliament without the need for due public scrutiny.
Whilst the making of an SDO avoids public scrutiny, there remains due process, which must be followed. The Council will seek to ensure that all Members of Parliament charged with a role in scrutinising the Statutory Development Order, are fully aware of the adopted Local Plan Policy for RAF Scampton and the significant regeneration proposals that are at risk as a result of the Home Secretary’s decision to use RAF Scampton as a centre for asylum accommodation.
West Lindsey District Council has previously written to the Home Office, to make it clear that the use of Special Development Order is entirely inappropriate in these circumstances.
The councils emphasise the importance of open dialogue and collaboration to address any challenges to ensure the well-being of both the asylum seekers and the residents in the affected areas.
They attend a multi-agency forum, which was set up in March for local stakeholders, including community groups and the East Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership to meet weekly with the Home Office as stakeholders.
This is to ensure the Home Office proposals are safe, legal and compliant. Fortnightly thematic subgroup meetings are also held with the Home Office with stakeholders to discuss certain key issues in more detail.
For more information and background on RAF Scampton, please visit the Council’s website: https://www.west-lindsey.gov.uk/growth-regeneration/raf-scampton