Locals blast Home Office bid to use air base 'for 1500 asylum seekers'

Fury over plan to turn historic Dambusters HQ into refugee detention centre: Historians and locals blast ‘absolutely insane’ Home Office bid to use RAF Scampton ‘for 1,500 asylum seekers’

  • Bid to turn RAF Scampton into an asylum seeker centre has been blasted 
  • The Dambusters HQ had been touted for £300m redevelopment  

Plans to move a reported 1,500 asylum seekers into the historic headquarters of the Dambusters during World War II have been blasted as ‘absolutely insane’.

The Lincolnshire base RAF Scampton, which has been earmarked by the council for a £300m regeneration scheme, was home to the 617 Squadron and has been used as a museum commemorating the achievements of the unit until recently. 

The site has also been touted as the North’s ‘biggest regeneration and levelling up project’ after a £300m deal was struck last week to bring aviation, space, education and hospitality industries to the site – creating thousands of jobs. 

However, The Sun reports that plans are in the work to turn the base into a makeshift asylum detention centre as part of the government’s attempts to ramp up deportation efforts. 

The officer of the Dambuster’s commanding officer, Sir Guy Gibson, is reportedly being stripped bare, along with the airbase’s museum.  The Officers Mess is also set to be demolished.

RAF Scampton has reportedly been selected as an asylum seeker detention centre

Developers fear the new asylum centre would set the ambitious plans back

The base is currently home to an RAF museum commemorating the Second World War

The base was used by the infamous RAF 617 Squadron during World War Two

The development comes after it was reported that the Home Office was negotiating to secure two sites from the Ministry of Defence which would be used as asylum accommodation centres to reduce government spending on costly hotels. 

The Dambusters: How bouncing bombs – and incredible flying by RAF pilots – flooded the Ruhr valley and delivered a crucial blow to the Nazi war machine

On May 16, 1943, 19 Lancaster bomber crews gathered at a remote RAF station in Lincolnshire for a mission of extraordinary daring – a night-time raid on three heavily defended dams deep in Germany’s industrial heartland.

The dams were heavily fortified and needed the innovative bomb – which bounced on the water over torpedo nets and sank before detonating.

To succeed, the raiders would have to fly across occupied Europe under heavy fire and then drop their bombs with awesome precision from a mere 60ft above the water.  

Skilled RAF pilots flew low over the dams to release bouncing bombs in the Dambusters raid of 1943

The Mohne and Eder Dams in the industrial heart of Germany were attacked and breached by mines dropped from specially modified Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron.

The Sorpe dam was was also attacked by by two aircraft and damaged.

A fourth dam, the Ennepe was reported as being attacked by a single aircraft (O-Orange), but with no damage.

Up to 1,600 people were estimated to have been killed by floodwaters and eight of the 19 aircraft dispatched failed to return with the loss of 53 aircrew and 3 taken prisoner of war.

Wg Cdr Guy Gibson, Officer Commanding No. 617 Sqn, is awarded the VC for his part in leading the attack. 

The raid, orchestrated by Guy Gibson and the RAF’s 617 ‘Dambuster’ Squadron, was seen as a major victory for the British, and Wing Commander Gibson is recognised as one of the war’s most revered heroes. 

Their success was immortalised in the classic 1955 film The Dambusters, its thrilling theme tune and gung-ho script evoking the best of British derring-do.

The rapid change in use of the base has been blasted by prominent historian James Holland who has said that as the ‘demolition’ occurred on the 80th anniversary of the Dambuster’s efforts it is in particularly poor taste.

He said: ‘The Red Arrows have been told their air space clearance…will be revoked on 1 April.

‘Because the Home Office want to turn it…into a Refugee Detention Centre.’

‘Obviously, refugees need to be housed but why there?

‘Where there are listed buildings, so much heritage, and where there are such brilliant development plans in place and where such a plan is so desperately needed.

‘It’s absolutely insane. A desecration. And in the 80th anniversary year of the Dams Raid? Has this Govt gone totally mad???

‘Surely this cannot be allowed to happen?’

Meanwhile, locals who had been promised the site would soon be transformed into a new communal area filled with homes, hotels and restaurants are also less than enthused. 

Conservative councilman Roger Patterson told the i paper he had worked on the redevelopment project for over 14 years and the news had left him ‘angry.’ 

He said: ‘I heard the news and it just felt like the whole thing was totally destroyed.

‘It was just disbelief. It was the lack of consultation. Nobody thought to tell anybody. Everybody was overjoyed and then at a stroke the whole thing has been called into question.

‘It’s caused a lot of upset around the estate around the community really, because we don’t know what’s happening.

‘We’re completely cut off from everywhere, we’re in the middle of nowhere. So it’s the most unsuitable place to house people that will have complex needs. 

‘The other thing is where are they going to put them because mostly the accommodation is not in a good standard.’

Peter Hewitt, chairman of Scampton Holdings Limited which is charged with delivering the £300million regeneration at the airbase, fears the scheme will ‘grind to a halt before it’s even got off the ground’.

Mr Hewitt also branded plans to convert the site into a migrant detention centre for up to 1,500 adult men as ‘barking mad’.

He said if it goes ahead, it could also scupper plans for a new space port there, and says it is threatening to derail the ‘biggest regeneration and levelling up project’ in the north.

‘The total illogic, dare I say stupidity, of what is proposed is beyond the common sense of any normal person,’ Mr Hewitt told MailOnline.

‘Given a choice of migrant centre of 1,500 single males or £300m regeneration project, we seem to be going for the migrant centre… It’s barking mad.

‘This is the biggest regeneration and levelling up project in the north.

‘To say the local MP is apoplectic is probably an understatement.’

Under plans, approved by the local council only last week, up to 37 acres of RAF Scampton will be used as a new space hub, with 23 acres dedicated to education, 17 to business and 27 acres to heritage.

But Mr Hewitt feared that if the Home Office ploughed ahead with its plans, it would render the entire airfield unusable, stranding the £300million overhaul in limbo.

‘It won’t get off the ground if the migrant centre is there. This is just mad.’

‘One hand of government is clearly not talking to the other,’ he said.

The Dambusters squadron were immortalised for their use of the bouncing bombs 

The base has recently been at the centre of a new ambitious £300m regeneration deal 

The Scampton project would take between 10 and 15 years to complete, Mr Hewitt claimed.

The airbase has a 10,000ft runway and Mr Hewitt said he had already been approached by several companies keen to use this as a new space port, to launch small satellites into orbit on jets.

He continued: ‘Satellite Applications Catapult are very interested in Scampton becoming a new UK space centre particularly with the 10,000ft runway.

‘There is an ambition that this would be used for a horizontal launch platform. This would be huge for England, meaning there would be a space port that’s more accessible than the likes of Cornwall.’

He added: ‘Universities want to put campuses there. It’s very exciting. We can’t let it grind to a halt.’

MailOnline approached the Home Office for more information. 

A spokesman 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.

‘The government is engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process.’ 

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