Legal action against East Sussex asylum centre raises £6.5k just days after campaign launch

A legal challenge launched by a man in a bid to fight the Government’s plans to build a centre for asylum seekers in East Sussex has raised thousands of pounds so far.

Jeff Newnham launched the legal action earlier this month in response to the Home Office announcing proposals to house up to 1,200 people at Northeye, a former prison and training centre in Bexhill.

He has since launched a fundraising page on CrowdJustice, to help towards legal costs, which so far has raised more than £6,500 as of today (Thursday, May 18).

On the page, he said: “Over 150 charities have written to the Government saying this site is totally unsuitable, a sentiment echoed by local residents. Many have spoken out against the plans, decrying the use of such accommodation as entirely inappropriate for asylum seekers.

"The Home Secretary is planning to establish accommodation, as an alternative to hotel accommodation, using emergency powers to grant planning permission for 12 months, without any public consultation.

"We are looking to challenge the decision to circumvent planning laws by applying Class Q emergency planning powers, the lack of consultation of local stakeholders, and the lack of transparency and information about the decision making, in particular the impact on the environment and other factors, given the proximity to the Pevensey Levels.

"It is our understanding that the Home Office is yet to complete their purchase of the site. It is nonetheless important that we begin raising funds now to cover the costs of initial preparatory work by the legal team.”

Residents have raised concerns over the Home Office’s plans since the proposals were first announced on March 29. Since then residents in the area have raised concerns, who held a public gathering held outside Northeye on April 1.

A protest was also held outside the De La Warr Pavilion on May 11, hours before BBC Question Time was aired from the venue where the issue was discussed during the show.

Northeye is one of several sites to be chosen in the UK by the Government to house asylum seekers.

Bexhill and Battle MP, Huw Merriman met with Home Office officials last month, as well as leaders from local authorities and public services to discuss the plans.

He said the first 400 people are expected to arrive at the centre in September, followed by another 400, with the final 400 arriving by December.

Mr Merriman has also said that he does not oppose the plans to build the centre at Northeye.

The Home Office added the site will accommodate single adult male asylum seekers.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “By designing the site to be as self-sufficient as possible, we would minimise the impact on local communities and services. This includes consideration of impacts to the community during both construction and operational phases. As proposals develop, we will work closely with local stakeholders to manage any impact on the local area.”