Opposition gathers to plans to house migrants at former Lincolnshire RAF base
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Leading the motion, Coun Sabastian Hague emphasised the need for future decisions regarding the RAF Scampton site – the government wants to use the now-closed military base to house asylum-seekers – to be based on evidence and involve community consultation.
He said: “The government has overlooked consultation with the council. They’ve turned a blind eye to the profound impact on our local communities, especially around Scampton.
“They’ve stumbled in clarity about who will take refuge at the site. And in the face of those seeking solace within our borders, they’ve shown a distressing lack of empathy.
“As if to crown their series of shortcomings, they seem poised to risk not just our immediate peace but also our long-term prosperity.
“By insisting on turning RAF Scampton into an alternative accommodation centre, they threaten to squander the potential of a £300 million development that promises future growth for our district and even the entire county.”
The Home Office claims it is working closely with councils to manage the impact, although West Lindsey councillors were skeptical about this.
Coun Paul Swift supported Coun Hague’s motion, expressing concerns over the lack of clarity regarding who would be housed at the site and how the local community would be safeguarded.
He also highlighted the recent announcement of £1.8 million in funding for additional police recruitment in response to concerns but questioned the timeframe for training and deploying officers.
He said: “My constituents are desperately worried they won’t feel safe walking to the shops or allowing their children to walk to school unaccompanied.
“I believe I can speak for all of us here when I say we do not want the Home Secretary’s simmering tensions to explode on our very doorstep.”
During the meeting, the lack of communication with the public regarding the Home Secretary’s plans was brought to light.
Coun Tom Smith defended Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh over criticism he had not done enough.
“Sir Edward has been raising this issue day in, day out, for weeks and weeks on end,” he said. “He has had more meetings with the Prime Minister and Home Secretary on a single issue than most backbench MPs. To accuse him of not doing anything is factually inaccurate and verging on offensive.”
Coun Roger Patterson, member for Scampton, said: “I have absolutely no support for the plans at all. My only support I’ve given is for the residents and I don’t think this motion supports the residents enough.”
Following the concerns raised, the motion was amended to recognise the efforts made by the council, Lincolnshire Council and others to support the cause while urging them to do more.
Despite accusations of politicising the issue and using it for personal attacks, the amended motion was passed by councillors.
Members of the RAF Scampton Action Group, who have been fighting against the plans and advocating for the £300m investment in the site, observed the meeting.
Campaigner Sarah Carter said: “It was reassuring to witness the support we have from across West Lindsey and to have passionate people fighting our corner.”
Prior to the debate, a Home Office spokesman said: “Delivering accommodation on surplus military sites will provide cheaper and more orderly, suitable accommodation for those arriving in small boats whilst helping to reduce the use of hotels.
“We are continuing to work extremely closely with local councils, the local NHS and police services, to manage any impact and address the local communities concerns, including through substantial financial support.”
The first wave of migrants, primarily young men from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, is expected to arrive this summer.
The site aims to process about 5,000 asylum seekers in the first year, accommodating about 2,000 individuals at any given time.
In response to the plans that could disrupt the £300 million heritage, tourism, and enterprise project with Scampton Holdings, West Lindsey Council has initiated legal action against the Home Office. A hearing to determine the fate of the plans is scheduled for July 12 and 13.