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Written Evidence (with Asylum Matters and Medical Justice) for Committee Stage on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Clause 97

Kamena Dorling

Asylum Matters, Medical Justice and Helen Bamber Foundation submitted this evidence jointly in relation to Clause 97 of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill as introduced.

Clause 97 of the Bill allows the ‘appropriate authority’ to apply to the Secretary of State for planning permission instead of the Local Planning Authority where the development is in England and considered to be of national importance and urgent, or of national importance and not urgent. 

In light of the government's intention to move towards a system of large-scale asylum ‘accommodation centres’, we are concerned that Clause 97, if allowed to stand part of this Bill, will remove the proper and necessary checks on the exercise of executive power in the running and management of the asylum accommodation system in England. This will result in serious adverse impacts and harm both for people seeking asylum and for local communities.

It is vital that the obligation remains to consult local communities on substantive developments relating to asylum accommodation. We consider that the Home Office has consistently sought to avoid scrutiny of its proposals for large scale institutional facilities on Crown Land, and that Clause 97, whilst extremely broadly drawn, is aimed at least in part at bypassing what controls there currently are, in the institution of a new system of permanent asylum ‘accommodation centres’ in the UK.

When Clause 97 was debated by the Committee on 19th July, Matthew Pennycook MP raised these concerns, highlighting that the use of institutional accommodation to date has "been subject to controversy and, in the case of Penally and Napier, legal challenge - not least because of the last of consultation with local communities in the areas where they have been, or were proposed to be, situated". Tim Farron MP highlighted that the clause is "too much of a bank cheque for the Government". 

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