Asylum seekers could be camped at the former RAF Scampton as soon as April 14, according to Home Office documents, as West Lindsey District Council approved a fresh legal challenge to the plan.
The Home Office and West Lindsey District Council have been at loggerheads for almost a year after it was revealed that RAF Scampton was going to be used to house asylum seekers while processing.
The Home Office confirmed its intention to secure planning permission for the use of RAF Scampton for up to three and a half years from April, utilising a Special Development Order to try and bypass local planning processes.
However, Scampton Councillor Roger Patterson (Conservative) told reporters that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the site now indicates a timeline of up to four and a half years, rather than the three disclosed in recent legal proceedings.
A Special Development Order (SDO) is a means by which the government can secure planning permission through secondary legislation passed by parliament, but it must also be accompanied by a negative screening direction for the Environmental Impact Assessment.
West Lindsey District Council will be hoping for a better result than the High Court verdict at the end of last year, where the Home Office was given the green light to go ahead with its plans despite stiff opposition from residents and the council alike.
The council said it considers a Special Development Order (SDO) as the wrong way to go about seeking planning permission for the RAF Scampton site, citing concerns over the lack of transparency.
It also believes the asylum camp could harm listed buildings and monuments at the base, and would leave an unacceptable impact on strategic infrastructure, whether it be highways, health or education.
Cllr Trevor Young (Liberal Democrat), Leader of West Lindsey District Council, has urged the Home Office to reconsider the proposal for RAF Scampton, saying it has “failed to understand the complexity of the site” in question.
He said: “The council’s decision demonstrates our commitment to hold the government to account in relation to its decision to use RAF Scampton for the purposes of housing 2,000 male asylum seekers.
“The former airbase is a place with significant history, as many of you will know, it was once home to the Dambusters.
“It is important for us to preserve the historical and architectural integrity of the listed structures and the setting at RAF Scampton as they contribute significantly to the cultural heritage of the area.
“Not only is the site of national importance it is also key to unlocking our £300 million regeneration investment in the district and it needs to be protected to safeguard the unique investment that is knocking at our door.”
Sally Grindrod-Smith, Director for Planning, Regeneration and Communities at West Lindsey District Council said: “We continue to hold the view that RAF Scampton is an unsuitable site for asylum seeker accommodation.
“The government’s own assessment of the impacts through their EIA Screen Direction fails to address our long held and fundamental concerns.
“As such it is important that we continue to make this point and where necessary challenge their decisions through the court.
“We also consider that using an SDO by means of securing planning approval for this major development is completely inappropriate and goes against everything the planning process stands for.”