ABOVE: The High Court of Justice in London

A High Court judge has ruled that West Lindsey and Braintree district councils can proceed with a  legal challenge about whether it is lawful for the government to locate thousands of asylum seekers on ‘surplus military sites at Scampton and Wethersfield’.

West Lindsey District Council (WLDC) had previously lost its bid for a temporary injunction which sought to challenge the Home Office’s plan to house migrants at Lincolnshire-based RAF Scampton. Similarly, in May 2023, the High Court also refrained from granting a similar injunction that would prevent the Essex-based Wethersfield site from being used to house individuals ‘who enter the UK illegally on small boats’.

However, during a High Court challenge last week, the two councils – alongside an Essex resident, Gabriel Clarke-Holland – sought permission for a judicial review, bringing the case against Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove. Of the fifteen grounds proposed, 3 were granted on Friday, including permitted development planning grounds.

Suggesting that the government should not rely on a ‘Class Q’ planning rule (whereby planning permission is not required, owing to ‘emergency’ circumstances), claimants argued that ministers should obtain planning permission and an environmental impact assessment (believing the government’s plans to extend well beyond the ‘emergency’ window of a maximum twelve-month period).

The judicial review will now proceed, with Councillor Graham Butland, leader of Braintree Discrict Council, noting: “We are grateful to have had another opportunity to put our views and the views of our local community across to the High Court. We still believe Wethersfield airfield is not a suitable site for these plans”.

A Home Office spokesperson added that the government remains “committed to deliver[ing] accommodation on surplus military sites which are not only more affordable for taxpayers… but are also more manageable for local communities”.

While the legal challenges over housing asylum seekers on former airbases continue, the Bibby Stockholm migrant barge – projected to accommodate around 500 single male adults – has set sail for Cornwall to its final mooring destination of Portland, Dorset.