BRAINTREE Council's High Court legal challenge to proposals for an asylum centre in Wethersfield has been pushed back until after Easter.

The council was hoping to obtain an interim injunction in a bid to block the Home Office and its proposals for the former airbase.

Braintree Council says the site is unsuitable because of its “isolated location” and the “scale of the development”.

In a statement, the council said: “We were expecting to attend the High Court today (Wednesday, April 5) 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, April 4) 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. 

Braintree and Witham Times: Braintree Council believes the Wethersfield site is unsuitable for the proposalsBraintree Council believes the Wethersfield site is unsuitable for the proposals (Image: PA)

“Thank you again to all those who are continuing to work with us on this matter, including the local MPs, 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.”

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick confirmed plans to house “several thousand” asylum seekers at former military bases in Essex and Lincolnshire and a separate site in East Sussex last week.

Foreign Secretary and Braintree MP James Cleverly criticised the proposed use of a base in his constituency, as did fellow mid Essex MP Priti Patel.

Braintree and Witham Times: Local campaigners SWAP held a demo in protest of the prison and asylum centre plansLocal campaigners SWAP held a demo in protest of the prison and asylum centre plans (Image: SWAP)

The news was also criticised by local campaigners SWAP, who held a demo at the weekend.

The Ministry of Justice is also considering the Wethersfield site as a potential location for two huge new prisons, but no planning application has been submitted yet.