The local planning authority has posted a ‘stop’ notice at RAF Scampton

The local planning authority has posted a ‘stop’ notice at RAF Scampton

At 7am today, Friday 8 September, West Lindsey District Council in Lincolnshire, which is the local planning authority (LPA) for RAF Scampton, posted a temporary stop notice on the gates of the fomer RAF station.

This means that the local authority is ordering the Home Office and its contractors to cease preparing the site for the arrival of asylum-seekers (which has recently been delayed until October). The Home Office is being urged to “engage with the LPA so that an appropriate assessment of the planned development maybe undertaken.”

According to West Lindsey District Council:

Unfortunately, we have been left with no alternative but to issue a Temporary Stop Notice. This means that development work should halt on site with immediate effect until we are furnished with details of the proposed works and can determine whether additional planning consents are required. The council has also served a further Planning Contravention Notice seeking the relevant information.”

Sally Grindrod-Smith, director of planning, regeneration and communities

This news should surely be an encouragement to anyone concerned about the Home Office’s determination to press ahead with its plans for large-scale containment sites – always without seeking planning permission – in the face of opposition from local authorities, MPs, communities, refugee-support NGOs and others, and could bolster the resolve of other LPAs.

The notice will cease to have effect on 5 October 2023. In the meantime, anyone who observes a breach of the stop notice is encouraged to report it at enforcement@west-lindsey.gov.uk

Other LPA action over large-scale containment

There are currently 5 large-scale asylum-seeker containment sites at various stages of development: RAF Scampton, RAF Wethersfield, the Bibby Stockholm barge, the former Northeye Prison at Bexhill, and Northop Hall Hotel in North Wales. They were preceded by a failed attempt at Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire last year. The sites at Bexhill and in Wales are at very early stages; it has now been announced that the Bexhill site will become part of the immigration detention estate. The Home Office is to purchase the land at Bexhill.

As for local authority involvement across these sites, LPAs have been irritated by the fact that the Home Office has made a habit of not applying for planning permission at any of them. Instead, it is relying on ‘Class Q’ to press ahead with its plans regardless. Class Q is a measure which allows the government to apply for planning permission retrospectively after 12 months – however, Class Q can only be used in a ‘national emergency’. Are we in a state of national emergency? This is the crux of the application for a judicial review which is to be heard in the High Court on 31 October 2023 regarding RAF Scampton and RAF Wethersfield. As for the history of these sites and planning-related legal action:

  • Last year (2022), at Linton-on-Ouse (the first attempt to set up a large-scale site), a very collaborative campaign was fought by the local action group, the Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative-led county council, and the Conservative-led Hambleton District Council (which is also the LPA). The LPA said it had ‘deep pockets’ for court action against the Home Office and issued pre-action correspondence. The plans for the site were dropped in August 2022.
  • In 2023, a judicial review is being sought by West Lindsey District Council regarding RAF Scampton). The hearing will take place on 31 October and 1 November 2023. The asylum site was announced in March 2023 and West Lindsey District Council was Conservative-led until local elections in May 2023.
  • As part of the above, in the same hearing, the High Court will also hear an application for a judicial review from Braintree District Council in respect of the site at RAF Wethersfield. Braintree District Council is Conservative-led. The asylum site was announced in March 2023.
  • In 2023, in an unusual step given all of the above, Dorset Council announced that, following legal advice, it would not be pursuing legal action on planning grounds over the Home Office’s use of the Bibby Stockholm barge.

One Life to Live has explored the curiosity of why the Home Office invariably seeks to place asylum sites in Conservative constituencies.

LPA action over hotels

In 2022, four local authorities took out interim High Court injunctions against the Home Office over the placement of asylum-seekers in hotels in their areas. They were Stoke on Trent City Council, Ipswich Borough Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

The gates at the RAF Scampton asylum containment site