Delay in Norfolk asylum jail decision

A final decision on whether or not the Home Office will convert part of the former RAF Coltishall site into an immigration detention centre looks to be made in mid January at the earliest.

A final decision on whether or not the Home Office will convert part of the former RAF Coltishall site into an immigration detention centre looks to be made in mid January at the earliest.

The original intention was for a verdict to be reached in mid-December, but that has been revised to next month, with mid to late January looking to be the possible new deadline.

Community leaders have urged a speedy resolution to the issue, especially in light of suggestions that the uncertainty surrounding a possible immigration centre has led to a number of commercial parties withdrawing their interest in buying all or part of the site.

It is understood that certain organisations have abandoned their plans for bidding for the site since the Home Office made their eleventh hour intervention in late November.

But it is not clear who these parties are and whether their withdrawal is directly related to the immigration proposal or for other reasons.

A worst case scenario in the eyes of senior politicians is that groups with viable plans for the airbase successfully look elsewhere for their needs in the next few weeks - and then the Home Office declare they are no longer interested in the airbase.

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This situation would leave options for the site even more limited than before the Home Office threw their hat into the ring.

What is for certain is that a January 26 deadline for the submission of tenders has been scrapped because of the Home Office involvement.

The deadline has been postponed by Defence Estates, the property arm of the Ministry of Defence, and according to agents Drivers Jonas, looks likely to be reset for next spring.

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson said he had been told a number of bidders had withdrawn “as a consequence of the uncertainty”.

“It may not be a disaster, but it is the kind of degree of doubt we could well do without,” added Mr Simpson.

“It is also not helped by the fact government is effectively closing down for a fortnight.”

Mr Simpson's north Norfolk counterpart Norman Lamb said he was “not surprised” to learn there may have been withdrawals.

“Uncertainty will always be damaging, the Home Office needs to get on with the decision making process.

“If it drags on it can only make matters worse. The Home Office has got to make sure that having fired this Exocet at a very late stage they reach a timely resolution.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said last night they were “working towards” January as a possible date and said their target was a “swift resolution”.