RAF Scampton row as former Royal Air Force base could be used to house 1,500 asylum seekers
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The former home of The Red Arrows display could be used to house 1,500 asylum seekers, according to a government plan. But, the former Royal Air Force Base, RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire is facing opposition as £300m plans to turn the location into a heritage site could be scrapped as a result.
The disused airfield closed last year, and the government released plans to turn it into temporary living facilities for asylum seekers. However, locals, politicians and historians have criticised the idea, writing an open letter voicing their discontent.
Sir Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough, the conservative constituency where RAF Scampton is based, has also spoken against the plans. He has had several meetings with Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.
Sir Edward who has been MP for the area since 1983 told Sky News he feels the government has already made its mind up about the decision. "The reason that they’ve made up their mind is that every time they try to go onto a private site, there’s an injunction, there’s a mass campaign and the private sector withdraws, whereas this is a base they own," he said.
Similarly, residents like Sarah and Paul Carter, who live opposite the base and had planned to open a cafe next door to coincide with the council’s plans. "If the government actually came and visited the camp, they would see that is a ludicrous idea," Mrs Carter said.
"We do not have the infrastructure to support these people that are coming over in a crisis. We’ve got a £300m investment for the area and the government is jeopardising it."
Previously, West Lindsey District Council secured a £300m deal aimed at turning the base into a heritage site but the plans could be scrapped if it is turned into a site to house asylum seekers. Mr Carter served in the RAF for 22 years, and has lived in the area for 28 years and called the move "disgusting".
"I think RAF Scampton is probably the most famous air base. It will be an act of sacrilege to lose that," he added.
The local opposition to the plan also included a petition started by Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Lincoln, Hamish Falconer, which has reached more than 40,000 signatures. More than 40 historians, who are against the proposal, have written an open letter voicing their discontent.
The group, led by Tom Holland, also includes Dan Snow and Al Murray. They wrote: "To erase Scampton’s heritage, rather than preserve, protect and enhance it further, would be a scandalous desecration of immeasurable recklessness."
A government spokesperson said: "We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being put on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country. We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options.”