A council has launched legal action against the Home Office over plans to house migrants at a former RAF base that was home to the Dambusters.

West Lindsey District Council fears holding up to 2,000 asylum seekers at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire would cause “irretrievable damage” to a £300m regeneration programme at the site.

The Conservative-led council has commenced action to seek a judicial review of the decision, with concerns over “significant contamination” among a “significant number of barriers” to the proposal.

The Home Office decision has sparked a backlash from cross-party local politicians, after the Government confirmed on Wednesday it planned to use Scampton, the Red Arrows’ former base as it seeks to slash its £6m daily migrant hotel bill amid record numbers crossing the Channel on small boats and an all-time high backlog of asylum claims.

Another legal battle is brewing over using MDP Wethersfield in Essex, where Braintree Council is preparing to apply to the High Court for an interim injunction.

SCAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: The front gate at RAF Scampton on March 15, 2023 in Scampton, United Kingdom. RAF Scampton which closed in 2022 is being looked at by the government and could be used to house up to 1500 asylum seekers. The council is unhappy as they want to attract investment to create thousands of jobs in technology, research and aerospace at the base and to keep the station's flying heritage.The base has been home to the Red Arrows aerobatic team and the 617 Dambuster squadron. (Photo by Martin Pope/Getty Images)
RAF Scampton has been home to the Red Arrows aerobatic team and the 617 Dambuster squadron. (Photo: Martin Pope/Getty Images)

A former prison site in Bexhill, East Sussex, had also been earmarked as part of plans to house up to 5,000 asylum seekers, with another row erupting in Dorset, where local politicians have rallied against proposals to keep migrants in a giant barge at a commercial port.

The Council’s director of planning, regeneration and communities, Sally Grindrod-Smith, said: “Despite ongoing attempts by the Council to set out to the Home Office the irretrievable damage that would be caused to the once-in-a-generation investment opportunity that is on the table, the Home Secretary has taken the decision to utilise RAF Scampton as a site for asylum accommodation.

“The Council considers that the decision is irrational and moreover the Home Office does not have the appropriate planning permission for the intended use.

“The Council has therefore issued a letter before action, sent in accordance with the Pre-Action Protocol for Judicial Review, which requires the Home Secretary to respond by no later than 4pm on Thursday, 6, April 2023.”

The Home Office confirmed that between 200 and 2,000 migrants would be held at the former military site, which is still home to residents, many of them current and former members of the Armed Forces.

Asylum seekers living at the former base would be free to come and go, with catering facilities and basic primary care available on-site.

Hundreds of migrants held at RAF Scampton would be placed in shipping container-type accommodation on the base’s runway, Councillor Richard Butroid told a recent meeting.

The Government claims the plan will “create new jobs and bring investment” but there are fears in the local community that a £300m programme to redevelop the former RAF base, announced just days before news of the migrant holding centre broke, could be torpedoed, with thousands of potential jobs now at risk.

Under the development plan, the Council would buy the base from the Ministry of Defence and, along with developers Scampton Holdings Ltd, use the 800-acre site for heritage, tourism, education and research, with a hotel, shops and houses built.

Peter Hewitt, chairman of Scampton Holdings Limited, said: “All of this will be totally scuppered if the migrant plans go ahead.

”I think it’s verging on scandalous, quite frankly. In my view, it’s just nothing short of cultural and economic vandalism.”

The Home Office was contacted for comment.

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