BICESTER MP Tony Baldry has called on the Government to clarify whether or not it plans to build an immigration centre just outside the town.

Mr Baldry wrote a letter to Damian Green, who has taken up the post of Minister for Immigration.

The move comes more than a year after the Home Office was given planning permission to build Britain’s largest secure immigration removal centre, which would house up to 800 people, at surplus MOD land, known as A site, between Arncott and Piddington.

In 2005 villagers successfully fought proposals by the Labour Government to build an open door asylum centre at the site.

Mr Baldry said: “In fairness to local people I think the time has come when the Home Office needs to indicate one way or another whether they intend to proceed with implementing this planning permission.

“As you may recall, there is considerable upset in the way in which the Home Office sought to introduce an immigration removal centre on exactly the same site a number of years ago, a decision and process that was subsequently seriously criticised by both the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee.

“So I think it is not unreasonable that my constituents living in exactly the same area and having to go through all that uncertainty and concern should at least have the courtesy of knowing from the Home Office what the department’s plans are so far as any immigration removal centre is concerned.”

Mr Baldry said a shift in policy meant children were no longer detained in removal centres, therefore creating more capacity, and he questioned whether the Arncott centre was now needed.

The Home Office had said the centre, which would house failed asylum seekers or illegal immigrants awaiting deportation, would create 500 jobs and could be open by 2012. It would be built to the same standards as a medium-security prison, with 17ft security fences, topped with razor wire.

Rebecca Mitchell-Farmer, chairman of action group the Coalition Against Bullingdon Immigration Removal Centre (Cabric), welcomed Mr Baldry’s move.

She said the group had continued to fight against the Arncott centre and detention policy on a national level.

Dr Mitchell-Farmer said: “We are urging decision makers to consider more humane and cost-effective alternatives to detention, such as case-management schemes used in Sweden and Australia.

“We are glad that the new coalition government has announced plans to end the detention of children, but that raises further concerns, such as the separation of children from their families.

“We welcome the fact that Tony Baldry is seeking clarification on the future of the planned centre at Bullingdon.”

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said at this stage there was no update, but the Minister would respond to Mr Baldry’s letter in due course.