Home Office says first asylum seekers due at Wethersfield this month

An exact date is unknown, but is not thought to be an earlier than July 11

The first group of asylum seekers will move onto Wethersfield airfield this month, says the Home Office.

Councillor Graham Butland, leader of Braintree District Council, said:

"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's 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.” 

Published: 10th July 2023