Marches, petitions and a call for an emergency meeting are all to be pursued in a bid to stop an asylum seekers' removals centre being opened near Stansted Airport.

Some 200 people turned up at a public meeting on Tuesday night to vent their anger at Home Office proposals for a secure centre on a site earmarked for a business park.

Rodney Copping, a Town and Uttlesford district councillor who met Home Office officials, said it had dropped listed Thremhall Priory at Takeley from its three Uttlesford options because negotiations would take too long.

The old Stansted terminal remains a possibility.

Residents objected to the centre being sited at Smiths Farm fearing fires, riots, 24-hour operation and floodlighting.

It was agreed to start a petition, write individually to Home Secretary, David Blunkett, organise a march and to call for an emergency meeting of Uttlesford Council.

The audience was silent as Mr Copping revealed details of the 500-bed centre, which will have a staff of 250, including doctors, nurses and teachers surrounded by a 5.2 metre high perimeter fence.

The Home Office will have made its site choice by April 29 when Uttlesford Council meets again with Government officials.

Dunmow county councillor, Susan Flack said it had taken the Government 13 years to build the new A120 and it would build a removals centre in just over a year. She said: "They should be looking at East Herts, Bishop's Stortford and Cambridge."

The former Wethersfield air base was also suggested.

Published Thursday, March 21, 2002