Wethersfield Airfield Asylum Accommodation

This page is to keep you updated on our latest statements and information relating to the Home Office’s plans to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.

Last updated: Tuesday 20 February 2024

Background 

The Immigration Minister announced the government's intention to proceed with securing accommodation for up to 1,700 asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield on Wednesday, 29 March 2023. More information can be found on the GOV website.  

Since the announcement we have provided the Home Office with our strong view that RAF Wethersfield is an unsuitable site, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location, the size of the site and the impact the scale of the development could have on the local community.  

On 29 March 2023, we started legal proceedings to challenge this decision by applying for an injunction. This was on the grounds that we believe the Home Office could not rely on the use of permitted development rights (known as Class Q) as a way of getting around the need for planning permission.  

Our injunction application to restrain the Home Office from using the site for this purpose was heard on 19 April 2023 and the High Court decided not to grant us with the injunction. We took this to appeal and on 23 June 2023 we received the Court of Appeal’s judgement that this was not successful.  

We then moved forward with a Judicial Review (JR) challenge of the decision by the Home Office to use RAF Wethersfield which we were given permission to progress with and took place on 31 October and 1 November. We challenged them on their proposed use and proposed development, the need for planning permission to be obtained and the Home Office failure to take a range of matters into account as part of their decision making process, including the conflict with the Local Plan, health care, traffic implications and wastewater. This relates to the Environmental Impact Assessment direction, reliance on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q) and the Equality Impact Assessment.

This was alongside two other judicial reviews which were also given permission to proceed - one brought by a resident from Wethersfield and one from West Lindsey District Council regarding their site at RAF Scampton. The Judicial Review was not successful and Mrs Justice Thornton determined the Home Office acted lawfully when making the decision to use the site for this purpose. We asked permission from the High Court to appeal this decision. 

Current position  

The Home Office is continuing to press ahead with its plan and on 13 July announced they have started to house asylum seekers on site.You can read their announcement online. The Home Office plan to use a phased approach to moving people on site. 

The Home Office have published a factsheet relating to the asylum accommodation which they have advised will be regularly updated with the latest information and updates and publish a monthly newsletter available on the GOV website to address any concerns and questions raised.

Enforcement action

The Council has brought a number of legal challenges against the Home Office and their use of the Wethersfield site. Throughout this time, we have continuously monitored all activity taking place on the site and have considered bringing additional challenges as circumstances on site change. Currently we are satisfied that we have robustly challenged the Home Office through its application for an Injunction, the appeal heard before the Court of Appeal, and more recently the Judicial Review heard on 31 October and 1 November.

We have been working closing with other local authorities following decisions of the Home Office to use other large sites for the same purpose. We’re aware that some have taken steps to issue an enforcement notice in respect of the activities taking place on those sites. However, it is important to recognise that the decision to take enforcement action of any kind is based on the facts that are present and relevant to that particular set of circumstances and the site. The fact that such steps have been taken by another local authority in relation to issues arising on one site does not mean that the same proceedings are automatically possible on another site.  

Enforcement action should be proportionate to the breach of planning control to which it relates and taken when it is expedient to do so. Where the balance of public interest lies will vary from case to case. As the local planning authority, we do have the discretion to take enforcement action, when expedient to do so, having regard to the development plan and any other material considerations. Any legal challenge must be able to be robustly brought and concluded, and in bringing any proceedings we must carefully consider all possibilities. At this stage, we continue to monitor the position and will consider all options available to us to bring further robust legal challenges where circumstances allow and it is expedient to do so.

We have made our position very clear; we do not support the use of the site for the accommodation of asylum seekers given the scale of the development, the lack of capacity in local services and its isolated location. 

Longer term use of site 

We have been made aware from the Home Office of their intention to extend the temporary use of the site for at least a further three years through obtaining a Special Development Order (SDO).

An SDO is a form of secondary legislation that grants planning permission for specific kinds of development in a particular area.

We were given the opportunity to provide our comments on this process where we raised various concerns over the lack of information provided and the failure to ensure meaningful engagement with stakeholders and the local community.

You can read more about our response on our news page

Letter to Home Office - Wethersfield SDO process

Letter received from Home Office - Wethersfield SDO process

Wethersfield Site Plan - received from the Home Office 

Funding

We have received an initial payment of the Asylum Large Sites and Vessel Grant from the Home Office which has certain requirements and criteria set by the Home Office which govern how we utilise the funding. The Home Office has clearly stated that it must be used to address pressures on local services associated with the asylum accommodation to support the outcomes of the large sites programme, specifically the provision of statutory services provided by Braintree District Council and Essex County Council.

We will also continue to work with partners agencies to understand how best to utilise a proportion of the funding to deliver discretionary activity to support a safe and self-sufficient site and mitigate the impact on the surrounding community. There is an immediate need to support those located on the site and progress is being made to support activities offered by voluntary organisations, such as maths classes, English speaking lessons and sports activities. We are currently engaging to understand how wider communities are being impacted and plan to launch a community grant scheme in Spring 2024.

We cannot use the grant to close our budget gap, nor can we use it to cover the legal costs incurred in bringing our challenges against the Home Office over its proposed use of the site.

This is one-off funding expected to cover the entirety of the time the site is in use. The Home Office have advised they intend to extend the temporary use of the site for a further 3-year period and is seeking planning permission by way of a Special Development Order (SDO) from April 2024. For 23/24, we receive £3,500 per newly occupied bed space paid in arrears. The number of bed spaces is currently capped at 600. At this time, we have not been provided with any long-term funding commitment from the Home Office beyond March 2024 and we have been requesting for this clarity.

How can I contact with the Home Office?  

The Home Office have advised people can contact them by emailing public.enquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk or phoning 020 7035 4848. 

We are continuing to raise various pressing issues that we feel still need addressing and clarifying in particular around community engagement and funding.  

A Multi-Agency Forum has been set up for local authorities, health, police and fire services to meet with the Home Office to raise questions and concerns on the proposals, ensure there is minimal impact on all those involved residents that live nearby and local services whilst supporting asylum seekers coming to our district.  

The Home Office are responsible for keeping the community updated on their plans. They have published a factsheet relating to MoD Wethersfield Asylum Accommodation which they have advised will be regularly updated with the latest information and updates.  

They have also a Wethersfield community update newsletter updated monthly available on the GOV website
 

Previous statements 

Update: Wednesday 6 December 2023

On Tuesday 31 October and Wednesday 1 November our Judicial Review hearing was heard before the High Court which we pursued to challenge the Home Office on their decision to use the RAF Wethersfield site for accommodation for up to 1,700 asylum seekers. This was alongside another legal challenge by a resident from Wethersfield and West Lindsey District Council in relation to the Home Office proposed use of the RAF Scampton site.

We were given permission to challenge the Home Office’s reliance on the use of permitted development rights (known as Class Q) and the environmental impact assessment screening direction, as well as their compliance with equality regulations in July. Mrs Justice Thornton at that stage was satisfied that the Council had an arguable case, and that there were key issues that needed to be fully considered through the Judicial Review.

We are disappointed that our Judicial Review was not successful and Mrs Justice Thornton has determined the Home Office acted lawfully when making the decision to use the site for this purpose. We have asked permission from the High Court to appeal this decision and await to hear more. We now need to spend some time reflecting on the detail contained within the judgement and consider the council’s position.

Since March we have worked on behalf of our communities to legally challenge the Home Office’s decision to use RAF Wethersfield as a centre for asylum accommodation and hold them to account, as we believe the Home Office failed to consider a number of issues when making the decision that breached planning and equality regulations. We are still of the opinion that it isn’t an appropriate site for a development of this scale given its remote location and the lack of capacity in local services.

Although it wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, we are grateful to the courts for hearing our case, the efforts of our legal team and the support of partners, MP’s, residents, businesses and communities during this process.

We continue to work closely with all agencies to support those accommodated, help to minimise any impacts on our local communities and raise any questions or concerns from residents and businesses directly with the Home Office.

We are continuing to keep our dedicated Wethersfield web page updated with the latest information relating to the site and links to the Home Office updates: www.braintree.gov.uk/wethersfieldairfield.

They have published a factsheet relating to the asylum accommodation which they have advised will be regularly updated with the latest information and updates and publish a monthly newsletter available on the GOV website to address any concerns and questions raised.

Update: Wednesday 1 November 2023

A decision in relation to the challenge on the Home Office’s use of RAF Wethersfield to house asylum seekers will be made at a later date after the High Court reserves judgement.

In July, Braintree District Council was given permission to pursue a judicial review which took place at the High Court over a two-day hearing on Tuesday 31st October and Wednesday 1st November. This was alongside another legal challenge by a resident from Wethersfield and West Lindsey District Council for the RAF Scampton site.

Mrs Justice Thornton considered arguments from both parties, with Braintree District Council challenging the Home Office on their reliance of the use of permitted development rights (Class Q), the Environmental Impact Assessment screening direction and compliance with the Equality Impact Assessment.

Since the decision was taken by the Home Office to use the site to house asylum seekers, Braintree District Council has used legal routes to challenge the decision.

Cllr Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “We will have to wait a little while longer to get a final decision on the Judicial Review challenge which we were pleased to secure permission for, implying the High Court felt the Council had an arguable case, and that there were key issues that needed to be fully considered.

“From the moment the decision to use RAF Wethersfield as an asylum accommodation centre was made, the Council have been clear that this is not a suitable site for this purpose and the Home Office has failed to secure appropriate planning permission or adequately assess the impact of their proposals.

“The Judicial Review provided us with an opportunity to challenge these points and present this to the court, with the hope of a successful outcome, as it’s important to us to not only represent the views and concerns of the local community but to hold the government to account when we believe breaches of regulations have taken place.”

Update: Friday 1 September 2023

An updated statement from our Leader Cllr Graham Butland on the Wethersfield Airfield Judicial Review legal proceedings. 

The High Court has confirmed that the Judicial Review hearing of our challenge against the Home Office’s decision to use the RAF Wethersfield site to house up to 1,700 asylum seekers will take place on 31st October and 1st November 2023.

The hearing will also include the other judicial reviews from West Lindsey District Council for the RAF Scampton site and a resident from Wethersfield.

This will provide us with an opportunity to fully put our views and the views of our local community to the court, supported by our respective evidence. We still believe Wethersfield Airfield is not a suitable site for these plans and the Home Office has failed to follow due progress in reaching its decision to use the site.

Although there is ongoing legal action, this doesn’t stop the Home Office from progressing with their plans at the Wethersfield site, and we understand from the end of last week there were 94 asylum seekers on site, and this will gradually increase over time. All multi-agency partners will continue to not only provide support where needed for all asylum seekers coming into our district, but also for the wider local community too.

The Home Office has advised us they will continue to keep their online factsheet updated to inform the community about the latest information and developments relating to the site and answer the communities' questions and their monthly community newsletter.

Residents can also visit our web page for links to Home Office information relating to the Wethersfield site and contact details.

Please know that we will continue to push for clarification on any issues or concerns as they arise and that community engagement is prioritised as the site develops.

Update: Friday 14 July 2023

An updated statement from our Leader Cllr Graham Butland on the Wethersfield Airfield Judicial Review legal proceedings.

Our Judicial Review permission hearing was heard at the High Court this week on 12 and 13 July, giving the council the opportunity to further challenge the Class Q point and the failures of the Home Office to take into account a range of issues as part of their decision to use the site for accommodation of up to 1,700 asylum seekers. This was also heard alongside the other judicial reviews from West Lindsey District Council for the RAF Scampton site and a resident from Wethersfield.

We are pleased that Lady Justice Thornton granted us permission to proceed with our Judicial Review on the following challenges:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment direction
  • Reliance on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q)
  • Equality Impact Assessment challenge

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.

The case will now proceed to a final hearing. This will be the Council’s opportunity to formally present its challenge under the grounds on which we have been granted permission and will allow for evidence to be presented to the Court. The final hearing will be subject to the Court’s normal case management process and at this stage, we do not know when the matter would be listed for a final hearing, but we will update residents when we know more.

This does not stop the Home Office from utilising the site to house asylum seekers in the meantime and we are aware that 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.

We will also 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.

Update: Thursday 13 July 2023

An updated statement from our Leader Cllr Graham Butland on Wethersfield Airfield Judicial Review legal proceedings.

Yesterday and today our Judicial Review permission hearing was heard at the High Court, which gave the council the opportunity to further challenge the Class Q point and the failures of the Home Office to take into account a range of issues as part of their decision to use the site for accommodation of up to 1,700 asylum seekers. This was also heard alongside the other judicial reviews from West Lindsey District Council for the RAF Scampton site and a resident from Wethersfield.

This challenge was on eight grounds, which includes a challenge to the Home Office proposed use and proposed development, and the need for planning permission to have been obtained and the Home Office failure to take a range of matters into account as part of their decision making process, including the conflict with the Local Plan, health care, traffic implications and wastewater.

Lady Justice Thornton has reserved judgement and indicated that she will deliver her decision tomorrow morning.

Again we are pleased to have had another opportunity to put our views and the views of our local community across to the High Court.

Meanwhile, this does not stop the Home Office from utilising the site to house asylum seekers and we are aware that an initial group of 46 was moved onto the site on Wednesday 12 July. We are still very much of the opinion that Wethersfield Airfield is not a suitable site for these plans and 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.

We will keep residents informed when we hear more.

Update: Thursday 13 July 2023

Residents can read the Home Office announcement regarding asylum seekers arriving at the Wethersfield site on their website here

Update: Wednesday 12 July 2023

An updated statement from our Leader Cllr Graham Butland on Wethersfield Airfield asylum centre plans.

We are aware that the first cohort of 46 asylum seekers have arrived at the Wethersfield Airfield site today, and more individuals are to arrive over the coming weeks.

The Home Office has informed us and partners that they will continue to monitor the situation and to ensure the site is running smoothly and safely. We will continue to work closely with our multi-agency partners to make sure we not only provide support to asylum seekers coming in our district but minimising any negative impacts and concerns to support the wider local community too.

There remain many pressing matters that need addressing by the Home Office and these were set out in an open letter to Robert Jenrick on Monday which you can read here: www.braintree.gov.uk/wethersfieldairfield. We will continue to push for clarification on these points.

Even with the site now being operational, it doesn’t mean that engagement is over. Please be assured we will continue to raise concerns and questions to the Home Office to ensure local voices are heard and continue encouraging the Home Office and the site provider to engage directly with the wider community.

For any queries or concerns the local community may have regarding the site, the Home Office have advised people can contact them by emailing public.enquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk.

Update: Monday 10 July 2023

An updated statement from Cllr Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council on Wethersfield Airfield asylum centre plans.

We are aware that the first cohort of asylum seekers will not be housed at the Wethersfield Airfield site any earlier than 11 July. We are yet to receive confirmation on an exact date from the Home Office.

Over the past few months, we have continuously raised the various pressing issues we have in relation to these plans, alongside partners and the community, and we still feel there are many that still need addressing and clarifying, in particular in relation to community engagement and funding. These concerns have been set out in an open letter I have sent to the Home Office today which you can view here.

This also includes delivery challenges, operational plans for the site with clear timescales, transport and vehicle movement and criteria for the funding being issued to local authorities.

We are supportive of welcoming asylum seekers into our district and providing them with the support they need, however we are still very much of the view that the airbase is not a suitable site, for the many reasons we’ve outlined before: www.braintree.gov.uk/wethersfieldairfield.

We are still proceeding with our judicial review permission hearing this week on 12th and 13th July which we hope will give an opportunity to further challenge the Class Q point and the Home Office’s decision to use the site for this purpose. The judicial review is on eight grounds, which includes a challenge to the Home Office proposed use and proposed development, and the need for planning permission to have been obtained. It also includes challenges against the Home Office failure to take a range of matters into account as part of their decision making process, including the conflict with the Local Plan, health care, traffic implications and wastewater.

This hearing will determine whether the three judicial reviews (Braintree District Council’s, West Lindsey District Council and a resident from Wethersfield) are granted permission to proceed.

There are currently no restrictions that prevent the Home Office from proceeding with their plans. 

We do not know when we will expect a decision on whether we can proceed but will update residents when we know more. If permission is granted, the case will then proceed to a final hearing. This will be the Council’s opportunity to formally present its challenge under the eight grounds and will allow for evidence to be presented to the Court. The matters will be subject to the courts normal case management, and at this stage, we do not know when the matter would be listed for a final hearing.

The Council, alongside multi-agency partners, continue to meet regularly and work to push the Home Office on these points. We absolutely appreciate the significant challenges central government are seeking to address in terms of high arrival numbers, however we still need clarification on a range of issues. It is clear there are increasing concerns from the public about these plans and I fully understand the frustration that there is still the continued lack of information and unanswered questions from the Home Office. Partners will continue to work closely together to support asylum seekers accommodated and help to minimise any impacts on our local communities.

We understand the Home Office will be updating their online factsheet with the latest information and updates which people can view here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/asylum-accommodation-factsheets/factsheet-mod-wethersfield-asylum-accommodation-accessible

We have also been pushing for a dedicated contact so that the community can raise questions and concerns directly with the Home Office. We are continuing to push for this but in the meantime, they have advised people can contact them by emailing public.enquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk.

Update: Friday 23 June 2023

A statement from our Leader Cllr Graham Butland on Wethersfield Airfield.  

Today (Friday 23 June) we received the Court of Appeal’s judgement on our appeal against the High Court’s decision to not grant us with an injunction to stop the Home Office’s proposals to provide accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield, and their decision that the Home Office could rely on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q) as a way of getting around the need for planning permission. 

The Rt Hon Sir Keith Lindblom has unfortunately decided to dismiss our appeal. In doing so the Court of Appeal has determined not to grant us with an injunction and have decided not to determine the Class Q point. We are extremely disappointed with this outcome. We are particularly disappointed on the Court of Appeal’s refusal to provide a definitive answer on the interpretation of the wording contained within Class Q, despite being invited by all the parties to do so, and Mr Justice Waksman’s recognition that the interpretation of this point was one of national importance.

We now need to reflect on the detail contained within the judgement and consider the council’s position. 

We will be proceeding with our judicial review permission hearing next month, which further challenges the Home Office’s decision to use the site for this purpose. A Judicial Review requires permission from the Court and this hearing will determine whether the three judicial reviews (ours, West Lindsey District Council and a resident from Wethersfield) are granted permission to proceed with the judicial reviews. If permission is granted, the case will then go to a final hearing which would give an opportunity for us to further seek clarification on the interpretation of Class Q in the judicial review.  

We continue to stand behind the community on the fact that the site is unsuitable for these plans and we are doing all we can through legal routes to prevent it from going ahead. This is all whilst we are continuing to work with our partners to mobilise should the plans progress, to support asylum seekers accommodated and ensure minimal impact on all those involved.  

There are still many pressing issues that we feel need addressing from the Home Office around transport and vehicle movement, impact on road infrastructure, security and safety, and lack of operational plans for the site with clear timescales and funding. There is frustration with the lack of information and unanswered questions and rightly so, and we are working hard behind the scenes to press the Home Office for more information and for them to actively engage with the local community. We have been and will continue to raise the concerns and feedback coming from residents, local businesses, parish councils and community groups with the Home Office to ensure local voices and concerns are heard.    

In the meantime, the Home Office, this week, have confirmed that they will not be looking to accommodate anyone on the Wethersfield site before 11 July. 

We will of course continue to keep the community updated and update our webpage with any new information.

Thank you to those who have worked with us and supported us throughout this process so far.   

Update: Wednesday 21 June 2023

A statement from our Leader Cllr Graham Butland:

We understand that residents and businesses remain anxious to know more regarding the Home Office’s plans to accommodate 1,700 single adult male asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.

We are still awaiting a decision on our appeal which was heard at the Court of Appeal on Monday 12 June. This was our appeal against the High Court’s decision about the interpretation of Class Q and the refusal to grant the Council an injunction to stop the Home Office’s proposals to provide accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield. We will update residents once we know more.  

Yesterday the Home Office informed us that they have amended their Wethersfield Factsheet. You can see the latest version of the Factsheet here.

We understand surveying work is still ongoing on the site, and physical works to mobilise the site will begin shortly. The Home Office can continue preparing the site whilst legal proceedings are ongoing.

We know there are still many unanswered questions and please know that we, alongside our partners, are doing all we can to get definitive answers and clarity around the proposals from the Home Office, whilst continuing to raise concerns shared by the community. We have been insisting that they engage proactively with residents, stakeholders, businesses, parish councils and community groups.

Update: Monday 12 June 2023
 

A statement from our Leader Cllr Graham Butland on Wethersfield Airfield.  

Today our appeal against the High Court’s decision regarding the interpretation of Class Q and the refusal to grant the Council an injunction to stop the Home Office’s proposals to provide accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield was heard at the High Court. 

This challenged the Home Office’s reliance on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q) as a way of getting around the need for planning permission. We had sought to obtain an injunction to restrain them from using the site for this purpose.  

The Rt Hon Sir Keith Lindblom reserved judgement which means a decision will be given at a future date. He said he hopes to deliver a judgement in as shorter time as possible. 

We are pleased to have had the opportunity to put our views and the views of our local community in front of the Judge, continuing to support the community to restrain the Home Office from going ahead with these proposals. We believe Wethersfield Airfield is an unsuitable site for the Home Office’s plans to house 1,700 asylum seekers, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location, the size of the site, and the fact that the scale of the development proposed could have an impact upon the local community.

As always we will continue to keep residents informed when we know more.   

Thank you again to residents, businesses, community groups, MP’s and parish councils for working with us throughout this process so far.   
   
Our previous statements on this situation can be found at www.braintree.gov.uk/wethersfieldairfield.  

  • In the Wethersfield Airfield case, the Home Office have reliance on certain permitted development rights conferred by Class Q, Part 19, Schedule 2 under the General Permitted Development Order 1995. This deals with development by the Crown or for national security purposes. Within that, Class Q addresses development by the Crown relating to an emergency.  

Update: Thursday 8 June 2023

We understand our appeal hearing on 12 June 2023 will be live-streamed. The live-streamed broadcast of hearings will be accessible from the judiciary’s website. The video will also be accessible from this website after the hearing.

Update: Friday 26 May 2023

A statement from our Leader Councillor Graham Butland:

We have received notification that our appeal against the High Court’s decision regarding the interpretation of Class Q and the refusal to grant the Council an injunction to stop the Home Office’s proposals to provide accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield will be heard on 12th June 2023.

We are also currently working with all parties across the three judicial reviews that have been brought against the Home Office decision to use this site and RAF Scampton in West Lindsay. We have received confirmation from the High Court that the permission hearing on all three judicial reviews (which will determine whether the parties are granted permission to proceed with the judicial reviews) will be heard on 12th and 13th July 2023, after the appeal hearing.

In line with the undertaking provided as part of the injunction legal proceedings, we have received further confirmation from the Secretary of State for the Home Department that in view of the pending appeal hearing, they will not be placing any asylum seekers on the site before 26 June 2023.

We have continued to stress the importance to the Home Office of them keeping residents and businesses updated on their asylum centre plans for RAF Wethersfield. We are aware the Home Office are setting up engagement sessions with residents in the nearby area, the wider local community and stakeholders including parish councils over the next couple of weeks, as a way of keeping people updated on any progress and developments, and for people to ask questions and share concerns. We will continue to keep residents updated.

Update: Thursday 11 May 2023

A statement from our Leader Councillor Graham Butland:

As some of you will be aware, we have decided to appeal the High Court’s decision not to grant Braintree District Council an injunction against the Home Office’s proposals to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.  

We do not have a date for our appeal hearing yet, but we will keep residents updated once we know more.  

As previously stated, we have continued to look at the other legal options available to us and we have also issued an application for judicial review challenging the Home Office’s decision to use the site for this purpose.  

We are aware there are currently two other judicial review proceedings that have been issued from West Lindsey District Council for their site at RAF Scampton and a resident from Wethersfield. We understand West Lindsey’s judicial review includes an application for an interim injunction which is due to be heard by the High Court today (Thursday, 11 May) and we will assist the court in any directions for future management of all three judicial reviews.  

The Home Office can still prepare the site whilst legal proceedings are in progress and we understand survey work is still ongoing.  

We still need to prepare to support any asylum seekers if legal proceedings are not successful. We are continuing to work with local partners to plan for this as well as mitigating any pressures on local services and the impact on the local community.  

We are aware of the possibility of funding for local authorities with a per-bedspace payment for asylum seekers, however we have not received any details from the Home Office and we do not know what level of funding is being proposed or what it will be provided for at this stage. We do however expect this funding to be called upon by a number of other local partners and not just Braintree District Council.  

We recognise that there are still many unanswered questions about these proposals and ongoing concerns within the community. Please know that we are doing all we can behind the scenes to press the Home Office for more details, encouraging them to urgently share additional information when it becomes available and to engage proactively with the community. With our partners, we continue to raise questions and concerns from the community as part of these discussions. We will keep residents updated as we progress with our legal proceedings and with any information we receive from the Home Office.  

Thank you to all residents, parish councils, community groups and MP’s for your continued support as we move through this process. 

Update: Friday 28 April 2023

Last Friday we received the High Court’s judgement on our injunction application to challenge the Home Office’s proposals to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.

The High Court decided not to grant us with an injunction and determined that the Home Office is permitted to rely upon the provisions set out within Class Q.

We have been reflecting on next steps and have decided to proceed with appealing the High Court’s decision, as we share the same view as many in our community that Wethersfield Airfield is not a suitable site for asylum use, and we remain of the view that the Home Office cannot rely on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q) as a way of getting around the need for planning permission.

We will be preparing our appeal papers and will be lodging these within the next week. We’ll then await notification of when the appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal and keep residents updated.

This appeal does not stop the Home Office from continuing to prepare the site to house asylum seekers. We will be requesting that the appeal is heard before the Home Office place any asylum seekers on site.

We know there is still a lot of uncertainty amongst the community on these plans and we are continuing to press the Home Office to engage directly with the local community to share more detailed plans about their proposals and fully understand the concerns being raised.

The government has issued a frequently asked questions document published on their website. However, some details remain unclear. We are still lacking detailed information from the Home Office on the needs of any asylum seekers and the facilities that would be provided on site.

In the meantime, we are continuing to work with our multi-agency partners to prepare if plans go ahead and identify any actions required so that we can support any asylum seekers accommodated and help to minimise any impacts on our local communities.

Update: Friday 21 April 2023

Our application for an injunction was heard by the High Court on Wednesday 19 April. This challenged the proposals by the Home Office to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield and their reliance on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q) as a way of getting around the need for planning permission. We had sought to obtain an injunction to restrain them from using the site for this purpose. 

We are disappointed that the High Court did not grant us with an injunction to restrain the Home Office from their proposals and have determined that the Home Office is permitted to rely upon the provisions set out within class Q. 

We remain of the view that Wethersfield Airfield is an unsuitable site, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location, the size of the site, and the fact that the scale of the development proposed could have a significant impact upon the local community, and want to thank all those who have worked with us, including local residents, community groups, parish councils and MP’s, up until this point.  

We are grateful to the Judge for granting the council’s application for an appeal and we will now be reflecting on any next steps. 

If plans do go ahead, we will continue to work closely with our partners to press the Home Office to share more detailed information about their plans with the local community and identify any actions required so that we can support any asylum seekers accommodated as well as minimising any impacts on our local communities. 

We will continue to keep the community updated. 

Updated: Thursday 20 April 2023

We have received confirmation that Mr Justice Waksman will deliver his judgement on Friday 21 April at 2pm.

Updated: Wednesday 19 April 2023

Our application for an injunction was heard by the High Court today (Wednesday 19 April). This challenged the proposals by the Home Office to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield and their reliance on the use of permitted development rights (Class Q) as a way of getting around the need for planning permission. We had sought to obtain an injunction to restrain them from using the site for this purpose. 

Mr Justice Waksman has reserved judgement which means a decision will be given at a future date.  

As soon as we receive an indication on an anticipated date for a decision, we will keep residents updated.

As always we will continue to keep residents informed when we know more.  

Again, a huge thank you to residents, businesses, community groups, MP’s and parish councils for working with us on this matter. 


Our previous statements on this situation can be found at www.braintree.gov.uk/wethersfieldairfield.

Updated: Thursday 6 April 2023

Following Braintree District Council applying for an injunction against the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence to stop them establishing an asylum centre at Wethersfield Airfield, we have secured agreement from the High Court for a full injunction to be heard on 19th April 2023. By securing a full day hearing on the legality of the Home Office’s actions, we have been able to obtain further information about the potential use of the site.   

As part of our legal proceedings, the Home Office has confirmed to the judge hearing the case that they will not move asylum seekers on to Wethersfield Airfield until a time after the court hearing and will only do so if they succeed in defending their position against our injunction. We will keep residents updated on the outcome of the hearing.

The Home Office has however confirmed that whilst they will respect the outcome of our legal action, they will begin preparing the site for asylum seeker accommodation from today (Thursday 6th April 2023). Whilst this means that our legal action has not yet stopped the Home Office from starting to prepare the site for asylum seeker accommodation, our court hearing will provide an opportunity for the issues to be fully considered and for a determination to be given by the High Court on the legalities of the proposal. 

Also, in response to our requests to the Home Office for information on their proposals, we have been supplied with an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening direction. The direction states that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (SSLUHC) does not consider that the potential environmental impact of an asylum centre being established at Wethersfield Airfield would not constitute development that would require an EIA and that therefore there is no need for a full Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out. Whilst we have not received the actual documentation submitted by the Home Office with their Screening Request, the SSLUHC has provided a written statement explaining their decision and this statement offers some information on the proposed use of the site.

The documentation can be viewed on our public access website (www.braintree.gov.uk/pa), using application reference 23/00942/SOS.

We remain of the view that Wethersfield Airfield is an unsuitable site to house asylum seekers, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location and the fact that the scale of the development proposed could have a significant impact upon the local community. 

We have continued to encourage the Home Office to engage proactively with the local community on their plans and will continue to ask them for updates and information on behalf of our community.

Updated: Wednesday 5 April 2023

We were expecting to attend the High Court today (Wednesday, 5 April) regarding our challenge to the proposals by the Home Office to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield, with the intention of obtaining an interim injunction to restrain the Home Office from using the site to accommodate asylum seekers. 
 
We were informed late yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, 4 April) by the High Court that the Judge assigned to hear the case has decided that the hearing could wait to be heard after the Easter court recess. We therefore look forward to bringing our legal case forward to the Judge after Easter and will keep residents updated on the outcome.  
 
We remain of the view that Wethersfield Airfield is an unsuitable site to house asylum seekers, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location and the fact that the scale of the development proposed could have a significant impact upon the local community. 
 
Thank you again to all those who are continuing to work with us on this matter, including the local MP’s, parish councils, community groups and residents.  
 
We have said from the start that if plans do go ahead, we will work closely with our partners to identify any actions required to support any asylum seekers accommodated as well as minimising any impacts on our local communities. We are continuing to press the Home Office for more detailed information about their plans. 
 
We recognise members of the public have noticed increased activity on site and we expect the Home Office to engage proactively with the local community on their plans and we are continuing to encourage them to urgently do this. 
 
As always, we will continue to keep residents informed when we know more. 

Updated: Wednesday 29 March 2023

We are aware from the announcement made by central government today, Wednesday 29 March 2023, that the Home Office are intending to proceed with securing accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield. 

It is extremely disappointing that concerns raised by us and the local community have not been taken on board. Our view remains that Wethersfield Airfield is an unsuitable site, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location, the size of the site, and the fact that the scale of the development proposed could have a significant adverse impact upon the local community. 

For the past two weeks officers have been working tirelessly to keep the situation under review and urgently seeking clarification and more information from the Home Office on these plans.  

We have been exploring all legal options available to us to challenge the Home Office on their decision making and challenge the plans from going ahead. Following legal advice we received, we applied to the High Court this morning (Wednesday 29th March) for an interim injunction. This injunction challenges the Home Office proposals to place asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield. The matter is expected to be listed before the High Court within the next 7 days. We understand that the application will be heard by the High Court before the site is occupied by asylum seekers.  

We want to say thank you again to all those who have been working with us, including local parish councils, community groups and residents. We will continue to work with everyone as we move forward. 

If the plans do go ahead and the High Court decide not to grant an interim injunction, we will work closely with our partners to urgently identify any actions required to support any asylum seekers accommodated as well as minimise any impacts on local communities. 

It’s important for us to be keeping the local community updated on these plans and we will continue to press the Home Office for more information on their plans and keep our channels updated as and when we know more, including the outcome from the High Court regarding the injunction. 

Updated: Wednesday 29 March 2023

We have now applied to the High Court for an interim injunction. This injunction challenges the Home Office proposals to place asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield. We would expect such an application would be heard within 7 days, and we expect the matter to be heard by the High Court before any asylum seekers are occupied on site. We will provide further updates as we know more.

Updated: Tuesday 28 March 2023 

Following the Council’s ongoing considerations and concerns relating to the Home Office proposals to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield, we are preparing to apply to the High Court for an interim injunction. This injunction challenges the Home Office proposals to place asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield. The papers are expected to be lodged with the High Court imminently. We would expect such an application would be heard within 7 days, and we expect the matter to be heard by the High Court before any asylum seekers are occupied on site. We will continue to keep residents updated.

Updated: Monday 27 March 2023 

We are aware of a media report stating we will be issuing an injunction this week to the proposals by the Home Office to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield. We are considering all legal options at this stage and our latest position is as remains on our website.

Updated: Friday 24 March 2023

We are aware of media reports circulating that the use of the site will begin on the April 1st. The Home Office continues to indicate to us that it has not yet made a decision on the future use of the site.

The Council has requested that the Home Office give the authority 14 days clear notice before any change to the use of the site is undertaken.

Updated: Monday 20 March 2023

An update given at our Full Council meeting:

Members will be aware of recent media coverage relating to the potential plans by the Home Office to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.

The Council has been approached by the Home Office to discuss the potential role the Wethersfield airfield site could have in housing asylum seekers. There have now been a number of meetings between officers of this Council and senior officials at the Home Office to discuss the issue and to seek clarification on the proposals being considered by the Home Office.

The Home Office has advised the Council that they have not taken any formal decision as to the future use of the site. However, they have confirmed that plans are being considered to provide contingency accommodation for asylum seekers on this site. We understand that if the site is used it would provide accommodation for asylum seekers whilst their claims for asylum are being determined, and not as a detention centre.

The Council has provided the Home Office with our strong view that we believe Wethersfield airfield to be an unsuitable site, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location, the size of the site, and the fact that the scale of the development proposed could have a significant adverse impact upon the local community.

The Council continues to seek further information from the Home Office, and officers are working tirelessly keeping the situation under review.

The Council has sought legal advice and formally written to the Home Office to request full and detailed information on their proposals, together with a request for copies of all relevant documentation. We are awaiting full details from the Home Office at this time.

We are also aware that recently there has been a range of activity taking place on the site. We have written to the Home Office to seek a full explanation and reasoning for this activity.

In the meantime, the Council reserves all legal rights, including the ability to challenge the Home Office on their decision making and the Council’s right to consider, all available legal remedies including its ability to seek an injunction if it becomes necessary and appropriate to do so.

I would like to thank all those that have been working with the Council, including but not limited to the Parish Councils in the immediate vicinity, local community groups and members of the public. We understand how these proposals can give rise to uncertainty, and we will continue to keep residents updated on this matter when we know more via the Council’s communication channels.

Updated: Thursday 16 March 2023

We are continuing to urgently seek clarification from the Home Office regarding their potential plans to house asylum seekers at the RAF Wethersfield airfield site.  

We met with them again this week and they emphasised that no decision has yet been taken. 

We have sought legal advice and have formally written to the Home Office to request full and detailed information as to the proposals, together with a request for copies of all relevant documentation. We await further details from the Home Office. In the meantime, the Council reserves all legal rights, including the ability to challenge the Home Office on their decision making and the Councils right to consider, all available legal remedies including its ability to seek an injunction. 

We have continued to reiterate that we believe Wethersfield airfield to be an unsuitable site, and our concerns that due to the size of the site, the scale of the development proposed could have a significant adverse impact upon the local community.  

We will continue to keep residents updated on this matter when we know more. 

Updated: Monday 13 March 2023

Residents will be aware of the recent media coverage about potential plans by the Home Office to secure accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield.

We were recently approached by the Home Office to discuss the potential role the Wethersfield airfield site could have in housing asylum seekers.

Last week we were urgently seeking clarification from the Home Office and met with them on Friday. They emphasised that no decision has yet been taken, however they confirmed that plans to provide contingency accommodation for asylum seekers on this site are under consideration, with several government departments involved. We understand that if the site is used it would be on the basis of providing accommodation for asylum seekers whilst their claims for asylum are being determined and not as a detention centre.

We reiterated our initial view that we believe Wethersfield airfield to be an unsuitable site, given the lack of capacity in local services and its isolated location. We are now seeking legal advice to see if there is anything within our powers to prevent the development going ahead. We await further details, including any potential timescales, from the Home Office. 

If the Home Office decide to provide accommodation for asylum seekers at Wethersfield airfield, we will work closely with our partners, including Essex County Council, the NHS Integrated Care Board and Essex Police, to identify any actions required to support any asylum seekers accommodated as well as minimise any negative impacts on local communities.

We will keep residents informed when we know more.

Published: 20th February 2024