A spending watchdog has criticised the Home Office for spending £28m on an asylum detention centre it never built.
Protests: Local residents objected to the centre
Ministers wanted to build the centre near Bicester, Oxfordshire, but dropped plans in 2005 after they were told such holding centres were not viable.
The National Audit Office said the Home Office could have foreseen problems - and saved money - if it had worked in a "more co-ordinated and joined-up way".
The Home Office said Bicester remained a potential site for a removal centre.
Lin Homer, chief executive of its Border and Immigration Agency, said taxpayers' money had already been saved through policies to cut the rate of asylum applications.
"Bicester remains a valuable potential site for a secure removals centre and we continue to keep that option under review," she added.
The Bicester centre was one of up to 10 such centres proposed in 2001 as ministers faced demands to deal with growing numbers of asylum applicants.
The then Home Secretary David Blunkett said the centres would help immigration officials work out more quickly who was in genuine need of refuge and who should be deported - while at the same time ensuring there was no burden on local authorities.
The centres would be self-contained institutions including accommodation, leisure facilities, education and legal services.
Officials identified former military land between villages near Bicester for the flagship institution with beds for up to 3,000 people in purpose-built accommodation.
But the proposals faced immediate local protests - and national lobbying from asylum and human rights groups.
By 2005 the projected costs were rising and opposition remained unabated.
DRAWING BOARD TO DUSTBIN
Oct 2001: Plan for centres mooted
May 2002: Bicester site named
June 2002: Local council objects
Aug 2003: Planning granted
Mar 2004: Case goes to High Court
June 2004: Home Office signs contract
Oct 2004: Court of Appeal backs government
June 2005: Scheme scrapped
At the same time, asylum applications had dramatically fallen, making the proposed centre less and less useful.
Officials were also proposing on a new asylum system that did not need special centres. Ministers announced they were scrapping the accommodation centre plans in June 2005.
In its report into the scheme, the National Audit Office criticised the Home Office for being "unrealistic" about what it hoped Bicester could achieve - and criticised the department for under-estimating the level of opposition.
Cherwell District Council's opposition alone culminated in a Court of Appeal battle that delayed planning permission for two years.
The NAO said that the Home Office had also signed a £60m contract with Global Solutions Limited to build the centre - but then had to pay it £8m compensation when the scheme was abandoned.
In all, £33m was spent on the proposed national network of centres that were never built, said the watchdog.
Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, called on the Home Office to "move forward and consider how to get best value from the empty site".
And Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh said the Home Office had to explain why the land was "sitting dormant".
"No one seems to have any idea what to do with it," said Mr Leigh. "The Home Office has been making grand statements about how much it is improving its project management. But we are yet to see any improvements to back up this rhetoric."