High Court hears three challenges to Home Secretary’s use of former military bases to accommodate asylum seekers

31 Oct 2023

Planning and Environment, Local Government, Housing, Public Law and Judicial Review

On 31 October 2023 and 1 November 2023, the Planning Court will hear argument in three judicial review claims relating to the Home Secretary’s use of two former military bases (MDP Wethersfield in Essex and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire) to accommodate thousands of asylum seekers.

The Home Secretary has relied for the development on a permitted development right authorising development by or on behalf of the Crown on Crown land in relation to an emergency for 12 months (under Class Q of Schedule 2, Part 19 of the General Permitted Development Order). The claimants argue that there is no “emergency” within the meaning of the GPDO, properly construed.

On 14 July 2023, Thornton J granted permission for the claims to advance to a substantive hearing on grounds covering three main areas:

  • Whether the development falls within the scope of Class Q, Sch. 2, Part 19 of the GPDO.
  • Whether the Home Secretary breached the Public Sector Equality Duty as set out in s.149 Equality Act 2010.
  • In relation to Environmental Impact Assessment, whether (i) the Screening Direction failed to determine lawfully whether the Wethersfield development is EIA development within the EIA Regulations, or (ii) whether the SSHD wrongly took into account the fact that the SSLUHC had issued a Screening Direction that the development would not be EIA development when that direction was predicated on 12 months’ use.

The three claims – (1) R (Gabriel Clarke-Holland) v SSHD and SSLUHC; (2) R (Braintree District Council) v SSHD; (3) R (West Lindsey District Council) v SSHD – have already received significant media attention, including on BBC News and in the Guardian and the Independent.

Wayne Beglan and Jack Barber are instructed by Mari Roberts at Sharpe Pritchard on behalf of Braintree District Council.