James Cleverly MP: Wethersfield prisons plan 'not a done deal'

A portrait of James Cleverly MP

James Cleverly, MP for Braintree - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

An MP has raised concerns about a plan to build two prisons near Wethersfield with the Ministry of Justice.

James Cleverly, the MP for Braintree, has said he has his "own concerns" about the plan to accommodate nearly 3,500 prisoners on the former Wethersfield airbase.

The MoJ has held a consultation on the prisons and has not yet lodged a planning application with the district council for the buildings.

It says it is "committed" to working with the community to produce jobs and boost demand for nearby businesses.

In a statement, Mr Cleverly wrote: "I have been contacted by a number of people with similar concerns about the proposals to build prisons on the Wethersfield airfield site.

He added: "I have met with the MoJ at ministerial level and highlighted my own concerns regarding the road infrastructure, echoing many of the views which have been expressed to me about the narrow rural roads in the surrounding area."

Mr Cleverly said a Transport Assessment and Travel Plan is being conducted to accompany a potential planning application, but he notes the "strength of feeling" on the subject.

He called on concerned residents to engage with the planning process, which takes place at local government-level.

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Mr Cleverly said: "I can assure you this is not a 'done deal' as some have claimed. The process is currently at the pre-application stage and there will be plenty of opportunity to engage and influence any decisions."

The prisons proposal has attracted opposition from residents in villages near the airfield, including Finchingfield and Wethersfield.

On Wednesday, November 10, parish councillors in Wethersfield agreed to form a committee which will work with other councils to challenge the plans, if they reach the planning stage.

The committee is yet to meet, but councillors believe the site is unsuitable for a prison.

A spokesperson for the MoJ said: "We are committed to working with the local community on these plans which would bring considerable benefits – creating hundreds of jobs while boosting demand for local businesses.

“We will set out any proposals in due course.”