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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 15:15 GMT
MP welcomes asylum unit rethink
The MoD site where the Bicester Asylum Centre would have been built
Plans for the Bicester Asylum Centre on former MoD land were shelved
An MP has welcomed the government's decision not to build an immigration removal centre in the heart of rural Oxfordshire in the near future.

Land near Bicester was considered for the centre, where failed asylum seekers would be locked up before deportation.

It followed controversial plans for an accommodation unit on the site, where asylum seekers would have lived among the community, which were axed in 2005.

Local MP Tony Baldry said it was clear the plans were no longer a priority.

It is clear ministers are not enthusiastic to pursue the Bicester site and it is now no longer amongst their priorities
Tony Baldry, MP for Bicester

The Home Office said the Bicester site had been considered as an alternative to proposals to build a removal centre at Gatwick, but that the Gatwick project would now proceed.

Mr Baldry said: "Although the option remains open, it is clear ministers are not enthusiastic to pursue the Bicester site and it is now no longer amongst their priorities."

The government's original plans to build an accommodation centre on the land - between the villages of Arncott and Piddington - caused local outrage, and was abandoned last June because the government said the number of asylum seekers was falling.

The project would have housed about 750 men, women and children, who could come and go freely from the centre during the daytime.

'Wasted' taxpayers' money

When the government announced the site was still being considered for an immigration removal centre, there was further anger among local residents.

Mr Baldry, who opposed both projects along with Cherwell District Council, added: "It is only disappointing that it has taken ministers this long to decide that Bicester is not a suitable site for asylum centres and has wasted at least 25 million of taxpayers money to decide something they were advised against four years ago."

The Home Office said in a statement: "The Bicester site was considered a possible alternative to Gatwick.

"But it was concluded Gatwick was a better fit for IND (Immigration Nationality Directorate) needs at the current time. But the site at Bicester will continue to be considered by IND for a removal centre."

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Bicester asylum centre plan axed
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11 Jun 05 |  UK Politics
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11 Nov 04 |  Oxfordshire
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