Decision to move asylum seekers into former US airbase in Essex to undergo judicial review

A protest earlier in July against Wethersfield Airfield asylum centre in Essex. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Councillors say a decision to allow their High Court challenge over plans to house asylum seekers at a former US airbase was the correct one.

On Wednesday, the Home Office moved 46 asylum seekers - the first of up to a planned 1,700 - into Wethersfield Airfield near Braintree.

The Home Office said the asylum centre will be "fully functional" by autumn.

Pictures show the housing blocks the men will be living in - which resemble a hostel. One room is fitted with three beds, with a shared toilet and shower.

Today a judge has ruled that the decision to house asylum seekers at the base can be heard at the High Court.

Leader of Braintree Council, Cllr Graham Butland, said "We are pleased that Lady Justice Thornton granted us permission to proceed with our Judicial Review

"We are grateful to have had another opportunity to put our views and the views of our local community across to the High Court at this initial stage, as we still believe Wethersfield Airfield is not a suitable site for these plans."

A coach believed to be carrying migrants arrives at the asylum accommodation centre at MDP Wethersfield in Essex Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

The council won permission to proceed with our Judicial Review on the following challenges:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment direction

  • Reliance on the use of permitted development rights

  • Equality Impact Assessment challenge

Cllr Butland said: "This does not stop the Home Office from utilising the site to house asylum seekers in the meantime and we are aware an initial group of 46 individuals moved onto the site this week and more expected over the coming weeks.

"Again we’ll continue to work closely with the Home Office and multi-agency partners to ensure there is minimal impact on all those involved residents that live nearby and local services, as well as raising our concerns with the Home Office so it can put in place mitigating action, whilst supporting asylum seekers coming to our district."

He said the council would continue to push for "regular, open and transparent engagement with the wider community which to date we feel has been lacking and creating frustrations quite rightly for our residents and businesses who have been left with a void of information."

Speaking to ITV News Anglia, Witham MP and former Home Secrtary Dame Priti Patel said she was against the policy: "The Government's policy is to stop the boats, well making a statement you're stopping the boats doesn't mean the boats are going to stop automatically.

"You need to have an end-to-end operational and delivery plan  which, quite frankly, seems to upset people in Government when I actually remind them of that and there were plans to do this, but that said they're in crisis and now they're just doing anything and everything possible."

The site has been the subject of a number of protests, all claiming that the site, in a largely rural area, is not suitable.

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