FORMER Home Secretary Dame Priti Patel has accused her old department of being “evasive” over how long it intends to use a former airbase in Essex to house asylum seekers.

In a letter to her successor Suella Braverman, Dame Priti said there had been an “alarming and staggering” lack of clarity about the plans for the former RAF base at Wethersfield.

The site has been earmarked to house 1,700 asylum seekers by the autumn as part of government plans to reduce the money spent on hotel accommodation.

Witham MP Dame Priti hit out after reports the site could be in use for five years.

The first asylum seekers arrived at Wethersfield in July.

In her letter to Mrs Braverman and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, Dame Priti said she had asked a series of parliamentary questions but had received “no definitive answer”.

“It is therefore concerning to now see that it appears that the Home Office has put in place plans to use the site for asylum accommodation for a five-year period and considers that this meets the value for money requirement,” she said.

Dame Priti said the failure to provide a direct answer “gives the impression that the Home Office is being evasive”.

Braintree and Witham Times: Dame Priti Patel pictured in the House of Commons in JuneDame Priti Patel pictured in the House of Commons in June (Image: PA)

The possibility of the site being used for five years to achieve value for money emerged in a leaked memo reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Dame Priti suggested the Government was being “secretive about its intentions”.

She told Mrs Braverman: “Clear answers now need to be provided by the Home Office and the Government must be transparent rather than evasive.

“The lack of clarity has been alarming and staggering, and I trust you will resolve this urgently.”

Braintree Council has been working to challenge the bid to house asylum seekers at Wethersfield.

It previously lost a bid for injunctions preventing the use of large sites by the Home Office, however last month won the opportunity to bring a full legal challenge in their claims against the department.

The council is still awaiting confirmation on when this matter will be heard by the court.