Braintree District Council has lost a High Court bid to prevent asylum seekers being housed at a former RAF airbase.
The council wanted to halt the proposed use of Wethersfield Airfield to accommodate up to 1,700 male asylum seekers for up to 180 days each.
Giving a ruling in London on Friday, Mr Justice Waksman concluded that the court did not have the legal power to grant the council’s application for an injunction, and thus ruled in favour of the government.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD)-owned land was one of the sites identified when immigration minister Robert Jenrick unveiled plans last month to house asylum seekers in disused military bases to cut the £6m a day being spent on hotels.
The local authority wanted the judge to grant an injunction preventing the use of the 6.5-hectare site, arguing proposals would breach planning control.
It rejected the government’s argument that the need to accommodate more asylum seekers is an “emergency” under planning law.
The Home Office and MoD opposed the injunction, with government lawyers asking for the case to be thrown out.
The judge said the Home Office estimated there were 109,000 asylum seekers in need of accommodation and support as of the end of last month. That included 48,000 being housed in hotels.
Paul Brown KC, for the Home Office, told the court a number of factors had contributed to issues around accommodating asylum seekers, including the impact of Covid, the Afghanistan relocation scheme and war in Ukraine.
The barrister argued that the current situation amounted to an “emergency” as it risked people being left homeless and destitute, and the government would be in breach of its duties to asylum seekers.
In a statement issued after the ruling, a Braintree District Council spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the High Court did not grant us with an injunction to restrain the Home Office from their proposals and have determined that the Home Office is permitted to rely upon the provisions set out within class Q.
“We remain of the view that Wethersfield Airfield is an unsuitable site, given the lack of capacity in local services, its isolated location, the size of the site, and the fact that the scale of the development proposed could have a significant impact upon the local community, and want to thank all those who have worked with us, including local residents, community groups, parish councils and MPs, up until this point.
Other sites proposed for use include RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire – the former home of the Dambusters RAF squadron. Northeye prison in Bexhill, East Sussex, is also set to be used.