10,000 signatures reached against Essex mega-prison proposal

Archive: Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons protestors show off their banner at Braintree District Council, Essex

Archive image: Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons protestors show off their banner at Braintree District Council - Credit: Will Durrant

More than 10,000 people have now signed a petition against a planned Essex mega-prison in the countryside.

It means the Government will have to respond to those who have implored "Do not build two new prisons at Wethersfield Air Base".

The Fields Association’s SWAP campaign is calling on the Ministry of Justice to review their consultants’ assessments now, so taxpayers’ money is not wasted.

Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prisons (SWAP) wants the Ministry of Justice to abandon the idea of building two prisons on the former World War Two airbase.

Alan MacKenzie, chair of the SWAP campaign, said: "So many people in the area around the Wethersfield Airfield and beyond into the whole of the UK do not want the environmental and ecological destruction of the beautiful Essex countryside. The petition has been supported by Chris Packham and many others. 

"Some 74 species of birds, many Red-listed, nest nearby the airfield, and the area includes the only Diamond Jubilee wood planted in Essex comprising 75,000 trees and shrubs.

"The site also includes ancient woodland, as well as Great Crested Newts and rare orchids. Red-listed birds on the site include the European Turtle Dove, Northern Lapwing and Grey Partridge.

"The Government has been spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on consultants for an Environmental Impact Assessment which will only do to highlight the damage which will be caused. It is already obvious that the road system makes the site unsustainable."

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A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We want to work closely with 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.”

A Braintree District Council spokesperson, said: “We know there has been a lot of interest from residents and communities across the district on the MoJ’s prison proposals.

"Braintree District Council has not received a formal planning application from the MoJ, and given its potential role in any future application coming forward, will not have a view on whether it ‘supports’ the proposed prison or not until that planning process is concluded.

"If and when the Council receives a planning application, residents, partners, stakeholders and businesses will have the opportunity to submit their views and comments through the planning process.”


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