‘An act of sacrilege’: Anger at government plan to house asylum seekers at historic RAF Scampton
A government plan to place asylum seekers in temporary living facilities at a Royal Air Force base in Lincolnshire is facing opposition from locals, politicians and historians.
About 1,500 asylum seekers could be housed at the now disused RAF Scampton.
The airfield, which closed last year, is the former home of The Red Arrows aerobatics display team and the Dambusters – the squadron that carried out one of the Second World War’s most famous air raids.
The government’s plan could see the scrapping of a £300m deal by West Lindsey District Council, aimed at turning the base into a heritage site.
The news has attracted anger from 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.”
It’s a matter that is personal to her husband – Mr Carter served in the RAF for 22 years, and has lived in the area for 28 years.
He 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.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough, the conservative constituency where RAF Scampton is based, is also against the plans.
He has had “numerous” meetings with Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.
Sir Edward, who has been MP for the area since 1983, 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.
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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.