One of the Home Office’s chosen sites to house asylum seekers has a “high risk” of containing undetonated explosives, “likely” ground contamination and “a risk of asbestos and leaking tanks across the site,” Express.co.uk can reveal. A Ministry of Defence (MoD) report, obtained by this website, assessing the development suitability of MDP Wethersfield identified several challenges future developers would face in transforming the airbase that played a key role in World War 2 into a new facility.
Braintree District Council in north Essex was approached by the Government to discuss the possibility of requisitioning the former RAF base to house asylum seekers on March 6, the day before Suella Braverman launched her Illegal Migration Bill, designed to solve the crisis.
The 800-acre airbase was first used during World War 2 before being taken over by the US Air Force (USAF) in the 1950s as the Cold War ramped up, only being returned to Britain in 1990.
The MoD report, released in the summer of 2021, noted that “the Cold War munitions store area” that remains on the north Essex base “is likely to have a high risk of UXOs (unexploded ordnance) as is the area to the west of this site”. The type of UXOs on the base is currently unknown but both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons were stored at various points at the facility.
Express.co.uk has visited the site and spoken to a group of British and American servicemen who were stationed on the base.
Steve Bisel, who worked for USAF, reflected on his time in the “bomb dump control room”, recounting an incident in which a nuclear weapon went missing on the base for “two to four hours” before being recovered.
The MoD study noted that the “demolition costs” on the airbase “are expected to be medium to high, due to asbestos risk and/or UXO”.
On top of the concerns around UXO and asbestos raised in the report, former airbase staff, the Airbase’s museum curator and local campaigners have sounded the alarm over the presence of PFAS, otherwise known as forever chemicals.
According to the US National Toxicology programme the use of two “extremely persistent” types of PFAS was “extensive” over a 50-year period. The chemicals, the programme claims, “affect multiple aspects of the immune system” and as such are a “hazard” for animals and humans.
One of the industrial products cited as possessing these resistant chemicals is firefighting foam, something used for decades at the Wethersfield base.
The RAF Wethersfield Museum Curator, Ross Stewart, said: “The airfield operated a large fire fighting section housed next to the Control Tower and two Kaman HH-43 Huskie Fire and Rescue Helicopters, each carrying a mobile system with 690 gallons of firefighting foam.”
Besides putting out flaming aircraft following “actual accidents”, firefighting foam was used to put out blazes lit in demonstrations.
The museum curator added: “USAF would also include firefighting demonstrations at the annual air shows and open days held from 1953 to 1988.”
British Pathè footage, taken in 1956, shows American Wethersfield airbase personnel conducting a “special firefighting display” for young children, in which a fire engulfing an old aircraft is put using firefighting foam now considered to be dangerous.
Robert Cameron, who worked on the base in the 1990s for the MoD police, following in the footsteps of his parents who worked there in the 1960s and 70s, said “fire fighting foam used for dowsing aircraft was literally poured all over the place for training purposes” during Wethersfield’s operational days.
As a result of such a liberal use of firefighting foam, Mr Cameron believes there is “almost definitely” PFA contamination on the airbase.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is under huge pressure to get a grip on the current migrant crisis which is estimated to be costing the taxpayer almost £6million a day to accommodate about 45,000 asylum seekers in hotels.
The Home Office has already published details of a £70million contract to house asylum seekers in accommodation centres in an attempt to end hotel use.
But campaigners from the Fields Association have written to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace urging him to intervene with the Home Office to prevent any accommodation centre plans from going ahead at MDP Wethersfield.
Beverley Ault, who is the temporary chair of the group told Express.co.uk that the conditions on the site are so inhospitable and they border on “inhumane”.
Ms Ault and Tony Clarke-Holland said that the Government’s U-turn on the Linton-on-Ouse asylum seeker accommodation plan gives them hope that similar backtracking will take place.
Last August the Home Office abandoned plans to establish an asylum seeker accommodation centre at an RAF base in Linton-on-Ouse in a rural part of North Yorkshire after mass opposition to the plans.
A Home Office spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “The asylum system is under unprecedented pressure, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country.
“In response, we are working across Government and with local authorities to look at a range of accommodation options and sites all of which will be in line with building regulations and health and safety.”
“The Home Office gave its assurances that any asylum seekers housed on the site would not be harmed as a result of the possible contamination located on the base, noted in the MoD’s report.
“The safety of individuals in our care is always our absolute priority.”
Source: Read Full Article