In spite of noisy protests outside, Mid Sussex Council District Planning Committee today gave a green light to the continued detention of children and families when they approved by 14 votes to 1 the UK Border Agency's application to turn Crawley Forest School in Pease Pottage into a Pre-Departure Accommodation centre.
Opponents of child detention, including SOAS Detainee Support, Brighton No Borders and No Borders London, branded the decision “disgraceful” and vowed to continue the fight against the centre and the companies involved in designing and running it.
From the start of the Planning Committee meeting it was apparent that the majority of councillors were much more concerned about the colour of the internal fences and whether a“majestic beech tree" would be "protected from the children climbing on it " than the exact nature of the regime operating the facility, the level of security and how little it differed from current forms of family detention.
Ian Bros, one of the formal objectors at the planning meeting, says that the involvement of children’s charity Barnardo's in the centre, which has much been trumpeted by the government, almost single-handedly swung the application in the UKBA’s favour. Whilst Barnardo's will run play facilities at the centre, the facility itself will be run by global security giant G4S, who are threatened with corporate manslaughter charges for the death of a detainee in their care last year. G4S did not get a single mention in the meeting, Ian noted, and the councillors present “seemingly believed that Barnardo's will take charge of the whole centre”.