Plans to house nearly 5,000 asylum seekers in new accommodation centres across Britain are set to be bitterly contested by local authorities.
Opponents warned the Government it had a ‘fight on its hands’, amid concern from Tory frontbenchers and senior MPs.
One Tory council has already lodged a legal challenge aiming to stop the Home Office plan dead in its tracks.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick announced that 1,200 Channel migrants will be placed in a new centre at Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex.
He also confirmed the Home Office was pressing ahead with other sites at former military bases at Wethersfield, Essex, and Scampton, Lincolnshire, the former home of the Dambusters squadron and the Red Arrows.
An aerial view of Northeye, a former prison and air base in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex
Disused buildings at RAF Wethersfield in Essex, one of the other discussed sites
Each will accommodate 200 people initially, with capacity ‘gradually increasing’ to 1,700 at Wethersfield and 2,000 at Scampton. Only men will be housed at the sites.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was ‘showing leadership’ by bringing forward further proposals to use barracks at Catterick Garrison in his constituency, the minister added.
He said the three first sites would feature ‘re-purposed barrack blocks and Portakabins’ from which migrants will be free to come and go.
Mr Jenrick also told the House of Commons he is ‘continuing to explore’ using ferries and barges as accommodation to reduce the ‘eye-watering’ cost of asylum hotels.
Tory-led Dorset Council said it was aware of talks between the Home Office and the owners of Portland Port to site ‘floating accommodation for asylum seekers’ there.
The newly-announced Bexhill site is a former prison and ex-RAF base known as Northeye.
Lisa Marchant, 41, a mother of two whose home backs onto it, said: ‘This is a quiet community with many young families and there are huge concerns about their safety.’
The area’s MP Huw Merriman – the railways and HS2 minister – said he would be meeting Mr Jenrick today, adding: ‘I know that this decision will have an impact on local authorities and public services.’
Catterick Garrison Headquarters in Yorkshire, another one of the discussed sites for Channel migrants
The main entrance to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire
In Essex, Braintree District Council applied to the High Court yesterday for an interim injunction against the plan.
And Simone Sutcliffe, 76, who has lived opposite the area’s base for 41 years, said: ‘The Government will have a fight on their hands.’
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Sir Edward Leigh MP, whose constituency includes the Scampton site, said the council would lodge applications for an injunction and judicial review.
West Lindsey District Council was ‘considering all options’.
Mother-of-four Samantha Taylor-Eggleson, one of 700 residents next to the Scampton base, said her seven-year-old ‘won’t be allowed out’.
Mr Jenrick insisted yesterday that there would be ‘specific protection for the unique heritage’ of the site amid fears the plans could damage the historic Dambusters headquarters.
But Ernest Twells, 77, whose father Ernie carried out 65 dangerous missions with 617 Squadron, said: ‘My dad would be very, very upset they are going to do this.’
Latest figures show the cost of migrant hotels was running at more than £6.3million a day in December, after a record 45,700 Channel arrivals last year.
The new sites are expected to house fresh arrivals across the Channel rather than asylum seekers already living in hotels.
Meanwhile The Refugee Council said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about the proposals.
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