Following substantial pre-action correspondence and a crowd-funded judicial review challenge, the Home Office has announced that it has abandoned plans to house destitute asylum seekers in a camp adjacent to Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, despite having recently finished construction of the camp for that sole purpose.
The Home Office purported to carry out the development under ‘Class Q’ emergency permitted development rights that apply to Crown land. However, it was put to the Home Office in pre-action correspondence that despite being on Crown land, the development did not benefit from permitted development rights under the General Permitted Development Order (“GPDO”). Article 3(4) of the GPDO does not allow development in breach of an existing planning condition, and Article 3(10) of the GPDO does not allow development that meets the Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) screening threshold in the absence of a screening opinion from the local planning authority.
It was also put to the Home Office that it was in breach of the public sector equality duty, because it had not considered the obvious equality implications of a segregated out-of-town camp for predominantly BAME asylum seekers.
Shortly after the first pre-action letter was sent, the Home Office requested a late EIA screening opinion from the local planning authority and paused plans to move in asylum seekers. It also disclosed an Equality Impact Assessment that appeared to post-date the first pre-action letter. The Home Office then failed to respond to the Claimant within pre-action protocol time limits, citing the need to obtain specialist legal advice and asking for a time extension.
The Home Office has now announced to stakeholders that is has abandoned its plans for the newly-constructed camp, the day before the Claimant’s extended deadline to issue the claim.