Blunkett faces setback to asylum centres plan

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett's drive to build a series of accommodation centres for asylum-seekers suffered a serious setback yesterday after campaigners opposed to a site in Oxfordshire won the right to take the case to court.

The Home Office hopes a planned centre for 750 people on Ministry of Defence property at Bicester will be followed by several others. But the High Court has granted a judicial review into the decision by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, to overturn a planning inspector's rejection of the scheme.

Beverley Hughes, a Home Office minister, had promised Parliament in November 2002 to abide by the outcome of the planning process.

George Reynolds, leader of Cherwell district council, said: "Local people are upset. They get more upset when it appears the Government is trying to drive it through regardless of local feeling."

If the case goes against the Government, it would deliver a blow to Mr Blunkett's plan to build four centres for 3,000 people. A site near a disused RAF airfield at Newton, Nottinghamshire, is being considered. Ministers are also examining a proposal for a centre at HMS Daedalus, a former Naval base near Gosport, Hampshire, and are looking for a suitable site in Scotland.