PLANS to continue running a disused airfield site as an asylum centre have been confirmed, with proposals to build two prisons on the site in the future also not ruled out.

The RAF Wethersfield site has been run as accommodation for asylum seekers since last year.

Braintree Council is fighting an ongoing legal battle against the use of the site as an asylum centre.

However, the Home Office has now confirmed its ongoing plans for their continued use of the Wethersfield Airfield site.

It told Braintree Council it has laid a 'special development order' which gives planning permission to extend the use of the asylum accommodation centre at Wethersfield Airfield for a further three years, with up to six months of decommissioning following.

Braintree and Witham Times: Site - Wethersfield has been used as an asylum centre since last yearSite - Wethersfield has been used as an asylum centre since last year (Image: PA)

It comes as their emergency permitted development rights, known as 'Class Q', expire in April. 

Following a review of capacity at Wethersfield, the Home Office also confirmed it has decided to cap the regular occupancy to a maximum of 800 service users from the original 1,700.

A letter has also been received by Braintree Council from the Ministry of Justice stating that although it is not looking to use the Wethersfield site to progress two new prisons whilst the Home Office is on site, it maintains an interest in Wethersfield as part of their long-term prison strategy.

This comes after they held a public consultation in 2021 asking for resident’s views on their plans to develop two new ‘mega prisons’ on the site.

Braintree Council says it still believes the MoJ would need to submit a planning application if it wanted to pursue any potential prison plans in the future.

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

Council leader Graham Butland said: “Having direction on the Government’s ongoing plans for its use of the Wethersfield airfield site will finally give our communities clarity, especially for the MoJ prison proposals since they announced the plans over three years ago.

“We still oppose the use of the site for asylum accommodation, for the many reasons we have outlined before, including its isolated location, scale of development and lack of capacity in local services.

“With the site in operation, we continue to share and raise feedback from the community with the Home Office and work alongside partner agencies to ensure that the needs of residents, both local people and those living at the site, are met.”