Asylum seekers WILL be held at historic Dambusters base

Asylum seekers WILL be held at historic Dambusters RAF base as Lincolnshire council bosses lose High Court fight against the government

  • West Lindsey District Council in Lincolnshire lost their legal challenge in court 

Asylum seekers will be held at the historic Dambusters RAF base after the High Court quashed a local council’s complaint about the Government’s plans. 

West Lindsey District Council in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, argued the decision to use land at the disused RAF Scampton airfield, once home to the  617 Dambusters Squadron that dealt a vital blow to Hitler’s industrial machine during the Second World War to house migrants was unlawful. 

Locals had been maintaining a near-constant vigil outside the basefor weeks, claiming they are in a battle for the base’s ‘heritage’.

The council slapped a temporary stop notice on the Home Office in September, arguing work to prepare the site – including moving in accommodation blocks to house up to 2,000 people – had broken rules about listed buildings and archaeology. 

Braintree District Council in Essex had made a similar challenge in relation to plans for land which once formed part of RAF Wethersfield in the county. A local resident, Gabriel Clarke-Holland, is also challenging plans for Wethersfield.

The council’s challenge over the former air base RAF Scampton in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire was quashed in the High Court 

Protesters have put up banners outside the base – once the home to the legendary Dambusters

A mannequin wearing a recreation of Guy Gibson’s RAF uniform watches the skies outside Scampton

Lawyers representing the councils complained about ministers’ use of planning rules, saying they could rely on ‘permitted development rights’ because there is ‘no emergency’. 

READ MORE: Drone photos show new asylum accommodation centre where up to 2,000 migrants will be housed at historic home of the Dambusters – after local fury at Home Office decision to transform RAF Scampton 

They also raised concerns about migrants being house for longer than the initially envisaged 12 months, and that another judge has already made a ruling on the issue, with no evidence being put forward to show that ruling is wrong. 

But, a High Court judge ruled against the council on Wednesday, and also dismissed the claims made by Braintree District Council and Ms Clarke-Holland. 

In a written ruling, Mrs Justice Thorton said: ‘The Secretary of State for the Home Department has statutory responsibility to provide accommodation and other support to asylum seekers and their dependants who would otherwise be destitute,’ explained Mrs Justice Thornton, in a written ruling.

‘Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of asylum seekers requiring accommodation has reached unprecedented levels.’

She added: ‘As a result of the strains on the asylum system, in January 2023, the Home Office approached the Ministry of Defence and other government departments enquiring about availability of Crown Estate assets which could be made suitable in the short term to assist with accommodating asylum seekers.

‘A submission to the minister for immigration, dated January 27 2023, sought a decision to explore the use of RAF Wethersfield and RAF Scampton to accommodate single adult male asylum seekers.’

The Dambusters base itself was closed in 2022 as part of a Ministry of Defence cost-cutting exercise.

The Dambusters crew took off from Scampton to bomb three dams in the Ruhr valley in Germany in order to cripple the Axis powers’ war production efforts 80 years ago in May.

Protester Sarah Carter outside Scampton in October – she says the base has ‘too much history’ to be converted into accommodation

Braintree District Council in Essex had made a similar challenge in relation to plans for land which once formed part of RAF Wethersfield

Led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, 19 specially adapted Lancaster bombers took part, using ‘bouncing bombs’ that spun across the surface of the water to evade underwater torpedo nets before striking the dams and exploding.

They successfully breached the Mohne and Eder dams, while the Sorpe was damaged. But of the 19 crews to fly out on the raids, eight never returned.

The exploits of the Dambusters were made into a film in 1955 starring Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis and Richard Todd as Guy Gibson. 

Last month, 40 asylum seekers housed in MDP Wethersfield in Essex demonstrated outside the facility, complaining they didn’t have access to doctors, were freezing due to poor clothing and bedding and were unable to contact their families. 

Between 400 and 500 asylum seekers are currently housed in refurbished barracks and portable buildings at the former RAF base – a fraction of the 1,700 the government wants to place there.

The Dambusters: How bouncing bombs flooded the Ruhr and delivered a crucial blow to Hitler

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. 

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.

A Lancaster Bomber on a commemorative flight in 1967 to mark the anniversary of the Dambusters raid that breached the Mohne and Eder dams

The Sorpe dam was was also attacked 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 three 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.

Wg Cdr Gibson was killed at the age of 26 when his Mosquito plane crashed during a night-time sortie over Germany.  

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