High Court hears argument on legality of decisions to use former airfields to accommodate asylum seekers

The royal courts of justice 1648944 1920

The High Court (Thornton J) has heard argument in three combined claims for judicial review challenging the legality of the decisions to use two former RAF airfields to accommodate asylum seekers.

In March 2023, the Secretary of State for the Home Department decided to use parts of RAF Scampton and RAF Wethersfield to accommodate asylum seekers. In the case of Wethersfield, a local resident (Gabriel Clarke-Holland) and the local planning authority (Braintree District Council) have each brought claims challenging the decision to use that site. There is also a challenge to the screening direction issued by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in respect to the Wethersfield site.

In the case of Scampton, the local planning authority – West Lindsey District Council – has brought a claim challenging the decision to use that site.

To use the sites, the Secretary of State for the Home Department relies upon the permitted development right pursuant to Class Q in Part 19 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (SI 596 of 2015). Class Q permits, subject to conditions, development by or on behalf of the Crown on Crown land for the purposes of (a) preventing an emergency; (b) reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency; or (c)taking other action in connection with an emergency.

The Claimants’ claims raise issues as to whether the SSHD’s use of the sites falls within the scope of development authorised by Class Q, the process by which the environmental effects of the development were assessed, and compliance with the public sector equality duty.

The case has been reported by the BBC, The Guardian, and The Telegraph.

Alex Goodman KC, Charles Bishop and Barney McCay act for Mr Clarke-Holland, instructed by Deighton Pierce Glynn.

Paul Brown KC, Nick Grant and Harley Ronan act for the Secretary of State of the Home Department. Isabella Buono and Rebecca Sage were involved at the earlier stages of the claim.

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