Judicial review granted over asylum centre plans at RAF Scampton and Wethersfield

Wethersfield/RAF Scampton
Both Wethersfield and RAF Scampton have been earmarked to house asylum seekers. Credit: PA

Two councils have been granted permission to launch a High Court fight over plans to house asylum seekers on disused airfields.

Braintree District Council and West Lindsey District Council are opposing Home Office proposals to house thousands of migrants at Wethersfield Airfield in Essex and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire respectively.

During a two-day hearing in London this week, the councils and Braintree resident Gabriel Clarke-Holland made a bid for a judicial review.

In a ruling on Friday, Mrs Justice Thornton ruled in their favour, granting permission to both councils and Mr Clarke-Holland.

She said: "The decision to accommodate asylum seekers on the sites may give rise to strong local opinion."

The judge said there may also be wider discussions about the welfare of the asylum seekers.

"Those are not, however, matters for the court," she added.

Mrs Justice Thornton said that two out of the 15 grounds could go ahead to a further hearing, including on the use of "emergency" planning powers.

"Both of these grounds were advanced by all three claimants," the judge continued.

The decision comes after the first 46 asylum seekers arrived at Wethersfield Airfield, around eight miles from Braintree, on Wednesday.

RAF Scampton  – once the home of the famous Dambusters squadron during the Second World War and later the Red Arrows aerobatics team – is expected to house around 2,000 asylum seekers at any one time, mostly originating from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

Alex Goodman KC, for Mr Clarke-Holland - who lives about 80ft from a gate on to Wethersfield - said members of the right-wing group Britain First were protesting near his home on the morning of the arrivals.

Lawyers for Braintree District Council told the court that the Home Office failed to take several issues into account, including access to healthcare at Wethersfield Airfield and "serious issues" with the "ageing" wastewater provision on site.

However, Home Office lawyers said the three linked claims should not be allowed to have a full hearing.

Paul Brown KC said in written submissions: "There is significant overlap in the grounds in all three claims and the misapprehensions which underpin them.

"None of the three claims raises any genuinely arguable point."

The High Court previously heard the planning law which would allow the airfields to be used covers the change of use of some Government land to prevent or mitigate an emergency which "threatens serious damage to human welfare".

The two councils and Mr Clarke-Holland have challenged the use of these planning powers, while the Home Office has said their use is justified.

Both councils previously lost bids for injunctions preventing the use of the large sites by the Home Office.

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