Centre approval met with wrath

Councils and campaign groups have slammed the decision to approve a
proposed accommodation centre for asylum seekers at Bicester.

Oxfordshire Council believes the deputy prime minister’s decision
defies the findings of the inspector who conducted a public inquiry
into the Home Office’s plans in March.

The council said the inspector, Paul Taylor, had considered the
centre to be contrary to local and central government planning
policy as it would involve development in an inaccessible, rural
location. It would also pose a risk of road accidents for
pedestrian asylum seekers and, as the centre would not be totally
self-contained, it could place a burden on local service

Chris Cousins, the council’s assistant director for land planning
use, accused John Prescott of ignoring the independent findings.
“It is a bad decision which flies in the face of established
planning policies. This is a case of the government not following
its own planning advice.”

Councillor George Reynolds, leader of Cherwell Council, said the
decision “makes a mockery of the independent inquiry and the
democratic process”. He said the council would assess whether there
were grounds for a legal challenge.

The Bicester Action Group, which opposes the plans, also said the
move contradicted assurances in the House of Commons last November
by Home Office minister Beverley Hughes that the government would
abide by the inspector’s decision.

But last week Hughes welcomed the go-ahead and said the Home Office
would “waste no time in moving ahead with work at Bicester”.

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