Protesters rally against proposed Essex mega prison

Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons (SWAP) campaign supporters in Great Bardfield with their banners

Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons (SWAP) campaign supporters in Great Bardfield with their banners - Credit: The Fields Association (SWAP Campaign)

Campaigners asked passing motorists in Great Bardfield to 'honk' against a proposal to build a mega-prison in the north Essex countryside.

Supporters of SWAP (Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons) campaign in Great Bardfield, Essex

Supporters of the SWAP (Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons) campaign in Great Bardfield - Credit: The Fields Association (SWAP Campaign)

SWAP (Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons) campaign supporters in Great Bardfield, Essex

SWAP (Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons) campaign supporters bring attention to the issue in Great Bardfield - Credit: The Fields Association (SWAP Campaign)

SWAP campaigners who are against proposals to create a mega-prison in Wethersfield, in Great Bardfield

SWAP campaigners who are against proposals to create a mega-prison in Wethersfield ask motorists to honk support in Great Bardfield - Credit: The Fields Association (SWAP Campaign)

Members of The Fields Association, who are running the campaign called Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons (SWAP), want the Ministry of Justice to abandon the idea of building two prisons the size of a town on the former World War Two Wethersfield airbase in the countryside.

It is understood the buildings could accommodate 3,430 prisoners, and would be four storeys high, one mile in length, with a three mile perimeter, and would be floodlit.

At Sunday's awareness raising campaign in Great Bardfield, there was a large turnout of supporters and around 50 motorists sounded their car horn to 'honk' in an hour.

SWAP chairman Alan MacKenzie said there were many problems with the mega-prisons idea for Wethersfield.

These included the proposed size of the development and its rural location, which would in turn force a lot of traffic on to the roads with visitors and suppliers. He said if someone needed swift medical attention the nearest hospital would be Broomfield in Chelmsford.

"It is one of 10 airfields the MoD is looking to sell and it's relatively large, 800 acres in total."

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He said since the campaign started on December 2, they have had a lot of support.

"Momentum is building," he added.

The group has raised concerns with Braintree District Council three times.

Representatives from 11 parish councils are now working together as the Wethersfield Airbase Scrutiny Committee, to put forward alternative proposals - their number was boosted after Gosfield joined them on Monday (February 21).

James Cleverly, the MP for Braintree, has highlighted his concerns about the road infrastructure with the MoJ.

A planning application has not yet been lodged.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We want to work closely with Braintree residents before submitting a planning application, which is why we consulted widely and held online and in person information sessions.

“We are now considering the responses and Braintree District Council will hold its own consultation if a planning application is submitted.”