Home Office scraps asylum plan for former Norfolk RAF base
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Controversial plans to house asylum seekers on the edge of a former Norfolk RAF base have been dropped by the Home Office.
The scheme would have seen Jaguar House, which was once part of RAF Coltishall, brought back into use for 12 months as an 'initial assessment centre' for up to 180 asylum-seeking men.
The building had already been used for that purpose from April 2020 until February 2021, causing controversy among locals.
Within the first month of opening, some five calls to the police and 30 complaints to the district council were made.
Jerome Mayhew, the Conservative MP for Broadland, has been lobbying to stop the site being used again, arguing that the location made it unsuitable.
He announced on Monday (July 4) that the Home Office had told him the plan had been scrapped.
Mr Mayhew said: “Since I first heard the Home Office were considering using Jaguar House as a permanent facility to house asylum seekers, I have said that this would be a very significant mistake.
“Not only would it have flown in the face of very strong local opposition, but the rural location and lack of facilities made it wholly unsuitable.”
“I am delighted to say that the lobbying to persuade the Home Office that Jaguar House was not suitable has been successful…
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“The government recognises that such centres are best placed in urban areas where there is access to community infrastructure.
“The Jaguar Building is the opposite: located in a small village, with inadequate community infrastructure or public transport.
“In addition, the number of asylum seekers to be housed there would have a disproportionate impact on a largely elderly small resident community.”
Mr Mayhew added that the announcement “shows the government has listened very carefully to those concerns”.
While some locals delivered gifts including shoes, food, clothes and toiletries to the site when it previously opened as an asylum centre, there were concerns raised by others.
These included claims of residents walking into gardens, begging, not following social distancing guidelines then in force, urinating in public, damage to a fence and one woman alleging an asylum seeker licked her hand.
This last incident resulted in a man being cautioned by police and moved to another immigration centre.
The grade II-listed main Jaguar Building was built in 1938 to house RAF officers - a use which ended in 2005.
There has been anger in recent weeks over a plan to create a much larger facility, for up to 1,500 asylum-seeking men, in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire, and a decision is still to be made there.