March 21, 2023 10.00 am This story is over 14 months old

Scampton asylum seekers could be housed in ‘shipping containers’ on runway

Heated meeting raises more questions for Home Office

News that immigrants could be housed in shipping containers on RAF Scampton’s runway caused shock at a public meeting last night.

The plans were described as “outrageous” and “our worst fears” by the Lincolnshire County Councillor who revealed them.

Hundreds of people attended the heated meeting – just miles from the former RAF airbase – with some forced to stand outside the Pollyplatt Primary School venue due to a lack of capacity.

West Lindsey District Council recently announced plans for £300million of investment on the site, however just days later it was confirmed the Home Office was looking at rehousing 1,500 asylum seekers there.

During a presentation, Lincolnshire County Councillor Richard Butroid, whose Gainsborough South ward covers the area, said the news had been “pretty much a shock to everyone in the room”.

He said the plans would see existing accommodation refurbished but said the government’s plans would also see them potentially use “Greek style portacabins, so shipping containers” placed on the airfield’s hard standing.

Councillor Butroid showed examples of the containers during his presentation last night. | Image: Daniel Jaines

“We’re really not happy with the situation. West Lindsey and other partners have worked so hard over the past two years to have a place, a the future for the camp and it’s really disheartening, that the government can come in at this last minute and potentially override everything,” he said.

He later confirmed that the council had not yet been formally spoken to by any government department.

Sally Grindrod-Smith, West Lindsey District Council’s director for planning, regeneration and communities, was also frustrated by the government’s plans and said the authority was working to protect the future of the site.

“We know RAF Scampton is a very special place, and we can see the potential of this site to make a transformation plan for the economic and social prosperity of our area.

“We were determined to work with the community to do things differently this time around for this community.

“We have a master plan and investment plan that’s ready to go. There is £300 million worth of investment proposals on the table And we have made our concerns very clear to government but these can potentially be lost if they progress with alternative proposals.”

Follow our reporter’s live coverage of the meeting below

Residents raised  concerns around the security of the site, the safety of residents and the asylum seekers – particularly if they chose to walk along the A15 to Lincoln, the impact on local services and the potential damage to the heritage of RAF Scampton.

One resident said: “The history of this site, the Government is shi****g on it.

“All those who gave their lives for us all, our history is getting thrown away.”

A Lincoln hospital nurse said the service was “already on its knees”.

“Our hospital will break, there’s no guarantee at all it will be able to deal with the people that come to the area and use those services,” she said.

A Lincoln hospital worker said services were “already broken”. | Image: Daniel Jaines

Sally said she had spoken with the Home Office and raised many of the concerns from the meeting.

She said the government was “adamant no decision has been taken.”

There was further criticism that neither the government or the Home Office had attended the meeting.

One row later broke out as one man said “You haven’t got anything to fear from Afghan refugees. Refugees do not harm anybody.”

There were angry yells, some swearing and others shouting “Get out”.

Following the meeting, Hamish Falconer, Lincoln Labour’s candidate for the next General Election, said shipping containers were “wildly unsuitable” for the asylum seekers.

The former leader of the Foreign Office’s Terrorism Response Team across peace efforts in the likes of Afghanistan and South Sudan said: “It is inhumane to start, it is going to be totally impractical given the services around here.

“It is obvious this is a clever plan come up with in London with no sense of what RAF Scampton is actually like.”

Following the meeting, Sir Edward Leigh, Gainsborough MP also apologised for not attending.

I was sorry I couldn’t make it: yesterday I took WLDC to meet the Home Office, asked a Question to Ministers in the House, raised it in the Budget debate, and appeared on tv — all regarding RAF Scampton. We are fighting this in Westminster and in Lincolnshire,” he said.

For live tweets from our reporter on the night, click here.

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