The dates have been set for the judicial review of the Home Office’s plans to house 2,000 asylum seekers at RAF Scampton. Bosses at West Lindsey District Council will go before the High Court in London on Tuesday, October 31 and Wednesday, November 1, arguing that the former airbase is unsuitable for the scheme.
However, residents fear it may be a ‘done deal,’ with portacabins to house migrants having already arrived. Resident Karen Anchor said she believed it was a foregone conclusion.
She said: “I honestly don’t think it can be stopped. The fact that they are putting portacabins on the base before the judicial review has even taken place is pretty poor.”
Ms Anchor’s frustration with the Home Office has grown exponentially over the past five months as it has only just recently started reaching out to the local community. The Government body has scheduled a day of engagement events for Thursday (August 31) at the Lincolnshire Showground where locals will be able to voice their concerns.
Ms Anchor added: “The RAF had a meeting with the Home Office quite a while ago to express concerns about the safety of their staff, but what about our safety? We’re only literally just getting a meeting with them.”
Debbie Rawding, another resident living near the camp, said that many locals were putting their faith in the upcoming judicial review. She said: “It’s why a lot of us aren’t out protesting. We don’t want to rock the boat.”
Ms Rawding added that everybody around the area is aware of what is happening at the former airbase and feels that protesting may be redundant. She couldn’t hide her disappointment over the recent installation of the portacabins, adding: “We can’t be there 24/7. There are 16 gates, they’ll find one way in, won’t they?”
Resident Brenda Smith said she didn’t think the hearing would be a ‘waste of time’ at all. She said: “At the end of the day, as long as we don’t get a corrupt judge who is on the side of the government, how can they possibly think throwing away £300 million in private investment is appropriate?
“I’m still hopeful that the judicial review will go in our favour, but it depends on the judge. It’s a worry but what can you do?” A £300 million enterprise, tourism and heritage project led by Scampton Holdings Ltd promised to bring thousands of jobs to the area, but there are concerns that investors might go elsewhere.
The Home Office hasn’t responded to criticism over the timing but says that the housing will end the expensive use of hotels for small boat arrivals. Councillor Roger Patterson echoed the council’s belief that the site is completely unsuitable for such accommodation.
He added: “I’m hopeful of winning the forthcoming judicial review because I believe we have valid legal and planning reasons as to why RAF Scampton is not suitable for housing asylum seekers. One is the Central Lincolnshire local plan, especially section 75, and the fact the buildings on the base are in a seriously decaying state, also the site is contaminated with Asbestos in the buildings and fuel contamination on the site, plus who knows what else.
“Above all else, the Home Office plans jeopardise the £300 million investment in our community, and Lincolnshire as a whole and condem residents to years of being supported financially by West Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council, as has happened elsewhere nearby where the MOD abandoned their sites and the local community.”
Labour Parliamentary candidate for Lincoln, Hamish Falconer, remains opposed to the scheme. He said: “The Home Office plans to put just 50 asylum seekers onsite mere days before the judicial review.
“Given they’ve made no progress since March, surely they should wait until the judicial review before putting both the asylum seekers and the local community through yet more confusion and uncertainty? They appear determined to try and steamroll local concerns, but we aren’t going anywhere.
“They should do the decent thing and wait for their day in court.”