West Lindsey District Council has launched legal action over the Home Office’s plans to put up to 2,000 single adult male asylum seekers at RAF Scampton, the Lincolnshire council said on Friday.
It comes two days after immigration minister Robert Jenrick announced the plan to use three disused military bases to house “several thousand asylum seekers through repurposed barrack blocks and portakabins” in a bid to cut costs and deter illegal immigration.
Essex’s Braintree District Council has also applied for an injunction to stop asylum seekers from being housed at RAF Wethersfield Airfield.
In a statement published on Friday, West Lindsey District Council council reiterated its concerns that RAF Scampton isn’t appropriate for asylum seekers and the plan may jeopardise a £300 million regeneration programme.
The councils said there are a “significant number of barriers” to using the site for asylum seekers, including “significant contamination from previous site uses that requires thorough remediation before the site would be suitable for any sensitive use such as housing asylum seekers in temporary structures.”
Sally Grindrod-Smith, the council’s director of planning, regeneration, and communities, said the Home Office doesn’t have the correct planning permission.
“Despite ongoing attempts by the council to set out to the Home Office the irretrievable damage that would be caused to the once in a generation investment opportunity that is on the table, the Home Secretary has taken the decision to utilise RAF Scampton as a site for asylum accommodation,” Grindrod-Smith said in a statement.
“The council considers that the decision is irrational and moreover the Home Office does not have the appropriate planning permission for the intended use. The Council has therefore issued a letter before action, sent in accordance with the Pre-Action Protocol for Judicial Review,” she added.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman was given until 4 p.m. on Thursday to respond to the letter.
In an email to The Epoch Times, a spokesperson for the Home Office said it would be inappropriate to comment on any on-going legal proceedings.
The confirmation of the plans to house illegal immigrants at RAF Scampton on Wednesday means that a £300 million regeneration project at Scampton—formerly the home of the Red Arrows and the 617 “Dambusters” Squadron—has been put on hold.
A spokesperson for Scampton Holdings Ltd (SHL), the company leading the redevelopment, said on Wednesday that it was “absolutely devastated” by the government’s decision, with the company’s chairman, Peter Hewitt, saying the decision was “incredibly difficult to understand.”
“Despite assurances that these plans will only be temporary, it is nothing short of a backward step for the economic growth of the region,” Hewitt said.
According to fact sheets published by the Home Office on Thursday, the department plans to move 200 people to RAF Scampton at the beginning and increase the capacity to 2,000 people over time.
Wethersfield Airfield will also be filled with 200 people initially, with the number increased to 1,700 over time.
Northeye Residential and Training Establishment, a former prison and military base outside Bexhill-on-Sea, would house 800 people from September and 1,2oo by the end of this year.
All three sites will be used for single adult male asylum seekers, the documents said.
On Wednesday, Braintree District Council applied to the High Court for an interim injunction, challenging the Home Office’s proposals to put asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.
Housing illegal immigrants in hotels is costing British taxpayers £2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) a year, Jenrick told the House of Commons on Wednesday when he announced the plan to put some of them in former military bases.
“The sheer number of small boat arrivals has overwhelmed our asylum system and forced the Government to place asylum seekers in hotels. These hotels take valuable assets away from communities and place pressures on local public services,” he said.
“Seaside towns have lost tourist trade, weddings have been cancelled and local councils have had their resources diverted to manage them. The hard-working British taxpayer has been left to foot the eye-watering £2.3 billion a year bill.”
Jenrick said the government remains committed to its “legal obligations” to house the destitute but is “not prepared to go further.”
“Accommodation for migrants should meet their essential living needs and nothing more. Because we cannot risk becoming a magnet for the millions of people who are displaced and seeking better economic prospects,” he said.
The minister insisted the move is “undoubtedly in the national interest” and said “single adult males” only will be forced into the barracks.
More than 45,000 illegal immigrants crossed the English Channel in small boats to reach the UK in 2022. Thousands more have already arrived illegally via this route so far this year.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made “stopping the boats” one of his five priorities and has said he is “determined to deliver” on his promise.
Braverman said on March 7 that the need for reform of the asylum system is “obvious and urgent,” as the problem is already “unsustainable.”
She said most of the illegals are accommodated in hotels across the country, costing the British taxpayer around £6 million ($7.4 million) a day.
Alexander Zhang and PA Media contributed to this report.