Update – Please note that the planning meeting has been deferred to 19 February 2015. This means that we still have time to submit objections to the planning committee to oppose the plan to expand Campsfield detention centre.
While the newspapers are taking an interest in indefinite detention in ‘UK Guantanamo Bay’, with the news that one man spent 1,701 days in detention, the Government is still planning to expand the size of the detention estate. There have been both local and national oppositions to stop the expansion of Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre since autumn last year. The Detention Forum has been calling for a moratorium on the detention expansion by urging members and others to lobby MPs on this issue.
Thanks to local and national actions that are taking place to oppose this plan, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has now spoken against the Home Office plan to expand UK’s detention estate.
We need to take a further action now to stop the expansion.
The Cherwell District Council planning committee is meeting on 19 February 2015 to decide whether to grant planning permission to the Home Office / Ministry of Justice which would enable them to double the size of Campsfield House detention centre.
Anyone can send objections to the planning committee, who will consider issues that are relevant on planning grounds. You do not have to be a local resident to participate in this process, but you must send your objections before 19 February 2015. You can email them at planning@Cherwell-dc.gov.uk quoting ref 14/01778/F. In our view, it is very important that as many objections as possible are received so that the planning committee recognises that it is a national issue.
The main planning issue is that the proposed site for expansion lies in a designated Green Belt area, in which construction of new buildings is generally not allowed. This means that the Home Office / Ministry of Justice must demonstrate that there is a strong need for detention expansion in order to obtain planning permission. See Appendix D of the planning statement document http://npa.cherwell.gov.uk/AnitePublicDocs/07770139.pdf for more details. (Please note that this link is currently not working. We have now asked Cherwell District Council several times for a new link but we have not been given one yet. We will update this information as soon as we hear back from the Council.)
Please note that any objection should be on planning grounds connected to the fact that building on the Green Belt has to have very special reasons. The local authority planning officers are recommending that the councillors only examine the application on ordinary planning matters (ie not on wider issue of immigration detention in general).
In a nutshell, the Home Office / Ministry of Justice are stating that there is a need to expand the detention estate because;
- The new Immigration Act, together with new 500 enforcement officers, will make it easier for them to detain and remove people
- They need to detain and remove more ‘illegal immigrants’ in order to reduce health, housing, education and policing costs which depend on the public purse
- 5,000 detention bedspaces (current capacity is 4,270), particularly for ‘longer stays for men’, is required for their ‘planned removals in the medium term’
The Home Office / Ministry of Justice’s needs document fails to mention the following which undermine their ‘needs’ argument. The Cherwell District Council planning committee must be informed that;
- More than a third of those who are detained are released back into the community and do not result in removals. In fact, UK has been removing fewer people while the size of the detention estate has grown.
- Detention is extremely expensive to maintain.
- The ongoing Parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention is yet to report its findings.
You are encouraged to use the information available in a briefing paper below to prepare your objections to send to the Cherwell District Council before 22 January 2015. Please feel free to modify it, but we also recommend you state clearly who you are and in what capacity you are commenting on this planning application. It’s important to remember that the planning committee members are unlikely to be immigration or detention specialists, and their knowledge of detention is likely to be limited. You can play a useful role in informing them what you know – at the moment, all they have is what the Home Office / Ministry of Justice have told them to justify their plan to expand the detention estate.
For more information, please also visit the website of Campaign to Close Campsfield here.
 See Planning Statement, Proposed extension to Campsfield IRC, Home Office and Ministry of Justice (October 2014), Appendix D: Needs case (available at http://npa.cherwell.gov.uk/AnitePublicDocs/07770139.pdf)