MP probes immigration centre costs

An immigration centre built on the site of the former RAF Coltishall base would lead to a vast annual road mileage of more than 1.4 million miles - just for the necessary transport of detainees.

An immigration centre built on the site of the former RAF Coltishall base would lead to a vast annual road mileage of more than 1.4 million miles - just for the necessary transport of detainees.

The figure is just one element of a revealing document obtained by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb in his efforts to discover as much detail as possible about the controversial plan, which has been on the cards now for more than 10 months.

While anger still remains that a decision has been repeatedly delayed by the Home Office, leaving the site losing value week by week, the communities around the base have been trying to discover as much about the potential plan as they can.

A large amount of that information has now been outlined to Mr Lamb in two letters from the Home Office and details include:


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t The monthly cost of upkeep and security at the base while it lies empty is £50,000.

t Approximately 12,000 journeys per year would be necessary to move detainees to and from the centre. At an average distance of 120 miles and an average time of five hours, this would equate to 1.44 million miles and 60,000 hours on the road. This of course does not include any staff mileage or distances necessary to run the basic facilities at the site.

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t The centre could be built without planning permission using untested emergency laws introduced last year and then retrospective permission could be applied for.

t It could take 34 months - nearly three years - to get the centre fully up and running, although this timescale could be significantly reduced if the emergency laws were used. All of these timescales are much longer than the Home Office originally estimated.

t The way the site would be converted would only allow “a generally adequate level of day-to-day internal security and control” and the site would fall short of the basic requirements sought by the government in new sites for immigration centres.

t Documents also reveal that the site “does not lend itself to effective lockdown in individual rooms in the event of concerted indiscipline”.

Mr Lamb said: “The mileage being discussed is scandalous in terms of environmental damage.

“One could choose to put a centre like this on Shetland or Skye, but other than that there are not many places less accessible than rural Norfolk.”

And on the planning permission issue he added: “Given the delay of 10 months to date and the extent to which they have hardly demonstrated urgency in this matter and their levels of prevarication, it would be outrageous and illogical to use emergency powers.”

Mr Lamb said that after taking in the various factors, the conclusion seemed obvious: “It is not a suitable location for a host of reasons, but what that then brings us back to is the need for a final answer from the Home Office - and fast.”

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