The appeal court yesterday cleared the way for the first accommodation centre for asylum seekers to be built at Bicester, Oxfordshire, despite the opposition of residents.
The Bicester asylum centre, which will house 750 asylum seekers while their applications are determined, is the only one of nine sites initially identified as suitable for the trial Home Office scheme to be given the go ahead.
Ministers had hoped to provide up to 3,000 places in accommodation centres around the country as an alternative to dispersing asylum seekers to inner city estates in the north of England and Scotland.
But local residents’ revolts over centres proposed for Throckmorton, near Pershore, Worcestershire; HMS Daedalus at Gosport, Hampshire, RAF Newton, Nottinghamshire, and five other sites have forced the Home Office to rule them out and continue the search elsewhere.
Des Browne, the immigration minister, said he recognised that there had been concern among some locals at Bicester but did not accept that an accommodation centre would be a detriment to the community. “I hope that in due course local people will want to become involved in the operation of the centre and have a positive relationship with its staff and occupants.”
Barry Wood, the leader of the local Cherwell district council, said: “We felt we had to stand behind the local people and fight against injustice. The planning inspector said no, but the government just bulldozed it through.”
Dionne Arrowsmith of the Bicester Action Group said: “We have fought a very long campaign, and are absolutely gutted.”