It appears that the Arora Group/Home Office/UKBA/CgMs Consulting axis is indeed extremely worried that their little plan to convert an insignificant little school in the small sleepy Sussex village of Pease Pottage, where the only excitement is the busy A23 running through it and its more famous Service Station, is about to go pear-shaped. So worried are they that they operated a full court press last night at a meeting of the lowly Slaugham Parish Council and planning meeting, no doubt surprised that their little back door deal, turning a residential school for children with behavioural and learning difficulties into something euphemistically called Pre-Departure Accommodation (i.e. the latest form of immigration detention centre for families and children) [Update: UKBA have removed this document but it is available here], has become so public and that the 13 or so nearby residencies have had the audacity to question their plans.
So, instead of the usual discussions about house extensions, tree cutting and the siting of litter bins, the heavy squad (including Surinder Arora himself and his trusty sidekick Tim Jurdon, both of Mercure Hotel fame) arrived armed with a full set of plans, the very same ones that they are studiously denying the rest of us, the general public, access to under the catch-all of a government infrastructure security directive. In fact, when challenged on this very issue, as to why what they maintain is merely a form of temporary hostel for people waiting to leave the country is being given this degree of security to prevent details of it falling into the hands of terrorists, they had absolutely no answer. Strange that.
Other issues that they failed to adequately address included the key stumbling block as to whether the new facility can genuinely be classified Class C2 under the planning regulations, given that some if not all of those arriving at the centre will be held under what amounts to secure conditions [see: ]. Then there is the time-line for the submission of this project, which appears to be being sped through the planning process with undue haste. Leaving aside the issue of why the Home Office has signally failed to open the process up to any form of public tendering as required under EC legislation, the is the problem of exactly when this course of action was initiated; when the Mid Sussex District Council were first approached about the plans and why the retrospective planning application for the current perimeter fence that the current occupiers of the site Crawley Forest School put up illegally went in only a couple of days before the formal application for the Change of Use.
And the outcome of this attempted damage limitation exercise on behalf of the Arora/Home Office team was that the Parish Council came down firmly against the planning application, submitting 8 formal objections to the proposal. Round one to the objectors.