Full injunction application made against Home Office and Ministry of Defence over Wethersfield asylum plans

Full injunction to be heard by the High Court

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 April 19, 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.  

Potential environmental impact

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. 

Published: 6th April 2023