The Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Rick Everitt, has called for the Home Office to be open with the public over its plans for the migrant processing centre at Manston.
Cllr Everitt wrote to then immigration minister Robert Jenrick MP about this matter on Monday 20 November 2023. The letter was prompted by the information learned through Kent County Council that the government is planning to build a secure migrant removal centre on the Manston site. The plans include accommodation for 360 people at the outset, later to rise to 700.
The letter follows a meeting with Home Office officials, Cllr Everitt and council officers in September 2023. At the meeting officials had been very clear there were no plans to expand or vary the current use of the former Ministry of Defence site as a centre for processing new arrivals, and pledged to report back if that changed.
There has been no subsequent communication from the Home Office to the council leadership on the matter.
Cllr Everitt said: “Thanet District Council is the local planning authority and while we recognise that the government would use its own powers to grant itself consent, we have serious concerns about the suitability of this site for the purpose now being proposed.
“These include issues of historic land contamination, the potential for noise and light pollution, traffic impacts, and the spread of infectious diseases. Such a facility is also likely to be controversial and may become a focus for public demonstrations and political extremists.
“While we continue to liaise with both the county council and local MP Sir Roger Gale, it is in my view discourteous to this council and disrespectful to the people of Thanet that we have waited for so long to receive a direct response from the Home Office regarding these plans.
“For that reason we are disclosing what we do know to all members of the council and the wider public by publishing my letter to Robert Jenrick. Thanet has a right to be heard on this matter and we will see that it is.”
Enc: Letter from Cllr Everitt to Robert Jenrick MP (20 November 2023).
Update – Tuesday 19 December 2023
The council has now received a response to its letter dated 20 November 2023, to Robert Jenrick MP, then Minister of State for Immigration, regarding the Migrant Centre at Manston.
In the letter, Leader of the Council, Cllr Rick Everitt, urged the government to keep the council informed of proposals for the site, and to provide opportunities to comment on implications for the local area.
The response, from Michael Tomlinson KC MP, Minister for Illegal Migration, outlines a commitment to keep Thanet District Council and Kent County Council informed through regular planned meetings. The council will also be invited to contribute to government considerations regarding the site. The letter does not address any specific matters relating to the proposed plans.