Home Secretary Suella Braverman was advised to scrap plans to house asylum seekers at a former RAF base, it has been reported. According to an email reportedly seen by the BBC in February, a senior Home Office official advised the home secretary to stop work at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, warning of “significant challenges to progress”.
The email from the Resettlement, Asylum Support and Integration Directorate, which formed part of the evidence, recommended the Home Secretary “agree to stop work on proposals for RAF Scampton”.
West Lindsey District Council, which has secured funds from a developer to regenerate the site, on Thursday lost the first round of a High Court challenge to the plans.
Mr Justice Kerr had been asked to impose an interim injunction, preventing the Home Office moving “materials, equipment or people” on to the land, but he dismissed the council’s application.
Crews from 617 Squadron flew from Scampton for the Dambusters raid on the night of May 16-17, 1943.
The Red Arrows display team also trained at the base.
The internal email was part of evidence referred to during a court hearing on Thursday.
RAF Scampton is one of several military sites which the Home Office wants to convert into large-scale asylum accommodation to house asylum seekers as they wait for claims to be assessed.
When it first announced the plans in March, the department said it wanted to reduce the £6million-a-day cost of housing people in hotels.
The Home Office believes up to 2,000 asylum seekers could be housed at Scampton.
The council had previously secured £300million from a developer to regenerate RAF Scampton into a site to be used for tourism, aviation, education and research.
In court, the council’s lawyers argued the Home Office’s move would “kill off” the plan, calling this “perverse”.
An email dated February 8 from a senior official in the Resettlement, Asylum Support and Integration Directorate – does provide details about the objections but does refer to the impact of the asylum proposal on redevelopment plans, warning of “significant challenges to progress”.
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It recommends that the home secretary “agree to stop work on proposals for RAF Scampton”, and “immediately notify the local authorities that the Home Office are no longer developing proposals for the site”.
In court, Home Office lawyers insisted the regeneration project was explicitly taken into account by the home secretary.
In a statement, a spokesman for the department said the military sites would provide “cheaper and more suitable accommodation for those arriving in small boats”.
It added: “Not only are these sites more affordable for taxpayers, they are also more manageable for communities, due to healthcare and catering facilities on site, 24/7 security and the purpose built, safe and secure accommodation they provide.”
In a similar case, Braintree District Council says it aims to appeal after losing a High Court fight over Home Office proposals to house asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.