BRAINTREE Council has slammed a government approach to secure planning permission for the Wethersfield site as it looks to continue its use an asylum centre for a further three years.

The former RAF base has been used to house asylum seekers since last summer.

The Home Office has now outlined its intention to obtain a Special Development Order (SDO) for the site and extend the temporary use of the site for a further three years.

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

Braintree and Witham Times: The RAF Wethersfield siteThe RAF Wethersfield site (Image: PA)

Braintree Council has said the plans to seek planning permission for the asylum centre at Wethersfield “runs against the spirit of national planning policy”. 

The Home Office originally secured planning permission to use the site as asylum accommodation emergency powers for 12 months up to April 2024.

This was legally challenged by Braintree Council, which argued the Home Office could not rely on it as a way of getting around the need for planning permission.

The response reiterates the council’s overall concerns about the SDO process.

Impacts of the development have also been raised concerning heritage, noise, transport, lighting and habitats.

Braintree and Witham Times: Concerned - Braintree Council leader Graham ButlandConcerned - Braintree Council leader Graham Butland (Image: N/A)

Braintree Council leader Graham Butland said: “We continue to have concerns over the complete lack of transparency and limited information being provided by the Home Office both to stakeholders and the local community on the development and the SDO process, and we’ve used this opportunity to reiterate this formally.

“They’ve also bypassed us as the local planning authority, as well as local residents, on the opportunity to engage and express their views which runs against the spirit of national planning policy. 

“With the site still in operation, we continue to maintain an open dialogue and collaboration with the Home Office whilst holding them to account and doing our best to ensure that the needs of residents, both local people and those living at the site, are met.”