Local resident takes Braverman and Gove to court challenging their decision to house asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield

Local Braintree resident, Gabriel Clarke-Holland, yesterday (27 April 2023) applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision by the Home Secretary to use Wethersfield airfield as a large scale asylum accommodation centre. He will also challenge a related environmental screening decision made by Michael Gove, at the Department of Levelling Up, which stated there are likely ‘no significant effects’ to the environment of the Home Secretary’s plan. The decision, which threatens to see 1,700 asylum seekers transferred into the airfield, was taken by Suella Braverman using emergency planning powers without consulting the local community.

Gabe, 24, has lived in Wethersfield opposite the main entrance to the airfield since he was one. He is extremely concerned about the negative impact that this decision is likely to have on not only his own family, but the whole community and the asylum seekers themselves. He decided to bring his claim after an application for an injunction made by Braintree District Council against the Home Secretary was refused by the court last week. The claim challenges the decision to proceed with the plan without local planning consultation. This includes challenging the lawfulness of the screening direction which appears not to have given adequate consideration to real issues such as the consequences of ground contamination present at the site, the impact on local water networks, (already facing issues with overflowing sewers), the impact on the narrow local road network or on the mental health of the local residents.

Gabe said:

“As a local resident I have been extremely worried about the real negative impacts that this decision will have for everyone including asylum seekers, my neighbours and local community. I felt that we have been left with no choice but to bring this challenge so that the court can step in where our elected representatives have made it clear that do not want our views heard.  

No consultation has taken place at all between the Home Office and the local community leaving everyone concerned and frustrated. The approach sets a dangerous precedent that will potentially lead to dangerous and unsafe military sites being used to accommodate tens of thousands of asylum seekers across the country. This important claim therefore has the potential to reach far beyond Wethersfield.”

Sue Willman of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors said:

“The Home Office is failing to meet its legal duty to promptly process asylum-claims resulting in a massive backlog of people in unsuitable housing. We disagree that the cost of this is “an emergency” which justifies bypassing normal planning laws at the expense of local residents and asylum-seekers. Once again, the government is showing a disdain for basic legal rules which are designed to protect us all.“

Gabe is represented by Sue Willman, Emily Soothill and Ahmed Ali from Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors instructing Alex Goodman KC and Charles Bishop from Landmark Chambers. The team has years of experience of successfully challenging unlawful decisions by public authorities.

While an announcement hasn’t been made about whether Braintree District Council will appeal the court’s decision, Gabe and his legal team believe that there are more important arguments to make about why the plan is unlawful and that it is important they are heard by the court.

Gabe is relying on Crowdfunding for his own legal costs and to cover the costs risk. Here is a link to the crowdfund Justice fund.

Media contact:
Ahmed Ali
Deighton Pierce Glynn

Share this story