Councillors call on people to back the growing fight to stop new £300 million 'superjail' being built near Harborough
"This whole corner of Harborough district will be totally overwhelmed," said one parish council chairman
Outraged councillors are calling on people to back the growing fight to stop a new £300 million “superjail” being built near Market Harborough.
The new rallying cry is being sounded today as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) pushes ahead with the scheme to build the huge 1,700-inmate prison next to Gartree Jail.
The proposal will create up to 700 jobs and plough about £75 million into the local economy if it’s backed in the next few weeks by Harborough District Council, the local planning authority.
The MoJ is also aiming to upgrade and expand the current 57-year-old prison at Gartree – making room for another 250 male prisoners at the high-security establishment.
Today Cllr Diana Cook, chairman of Lubenham Parish Council, said that the high-powered Government ministry mission has got to be stopped in its tracks.
“Enough is enough. It’s high time that we all come together to fight this all the way.
“It will be disastrous for our beautiful historic village of Lubenham as well as nearby Foxton, Laughton and Great Bowden if this new superjail gets the green light,” Cllr Cook told the Harborough Mail this afternoon.
“This whole corner of Harborough district will be totally overwhelmed.
“Gartree jail and the vast new prison that’s being proposed are both in our parish of Lubenham.
“And we oppose this initiative 100 per cent.
“We do fear that this is already a done deal and that it will go ahead what ever.
“But we are vowing to do all we can to stop it,” insisted Cllr Cook.
“And I’m calling on people here across the entire area to make their views known to Harborough District Council.
“You have to get in touch with the council now and oppose this.
“The council’s planning committee is due to look at and consider the MoJ’s application in the next month or so.
“So time is of the essence!
“You have to put pen to paper now and tell Harborough council that we have to stop this.
“We are going into battle as are Foxton parish council – and I believe that Laughton and Gumley’s behind us too,” said Cllr Cook.
“The MoJ have picked on this site simply because they own the land and they already have Gartree jail there.
“But it makes no sense what so ever.
“They have failed to evaluate the enormous impact that this is going to have in and around Gartree – including in Market Harborough itself.
“The existing sewage system wouldn’t cope with the new jail for a start.
“The dramatic increase in traffic would be horrendous.
“Our little country back roads are coming under intense pressure as it is as more and more people move into Harborough.
“You’d have over 700 new staff based at this prison.
“And many of them would be driving in and out of the area to go to work,” said the long-serving Lubenham councillor and village stalwart.
“A site this size would take years to build.
“Construction lorries would be trundling up and down the narrow Foxton road, our whole neck of the woods would be over-run.
“Part of the proposed site is designated in Lubenham’s Neighbourhood Plan as a separation area.
“That’s similar to the green belt – and it shouldn’t be built on.
“Are they just going to ignore that?
“We already have 1,800 new homes being built on the Airfield Farm housing estate just up the road while we have new business development going on beside the Innovation Centre,” argued Cllr Cook.
“It’s frightening to think how many more cars and vehicles are going to be travelling all over our already busy roads very soon.
“And the private road in Gartree hasn’t even been made up, it couldn’t cope.
“As for new jobs, Harborough’s an area of relatively low unemployment.
“The MoJ should build this new superjail on a brownfield site in a part of England where they need the jobs.
“It will also have a big adverse impact on Foxton Locks, one of our most crucial tourist attractions.
“People in villages like Lubenham are frightened that this is going to get off the ground.
“But they need to act now before it’s too late.
“So I’m urging you, please email Harborough council now and help us fight this project.
“So go on to the council’s webpage at https://www.harborough.gov.uk/view-and-comment-on-planning-applications and get behind us now.
“A massive new jail near Chorley in Lancashire has just been turned down, the people there have won.
“And I see no reason why we can’t win here in Harborough as well,” vowed Cllr Cook.
Backing her, Cllr Adele Rogers, the chairman of Foxton Parish Council, said: “We want local people to read about this enormously critical issue in the Harborough Mail so that they do become far more aware of it.
“We oppose this new superjail because it would increase the prison population here right on our doorsteps by four times.
“The amount of traffic will multiply many times.
“And we are especially concerned about the impact that it will have on Foxton primary school,” said Cllr Rogers.
“We’ll see much more traffic heading through Foxton heading to the A6.
“It’s also being proposed that sewage from so many more prisoners and staff would be dealt with by Foxton sewage station near the A6.
“Its pipes run right through our village and it gets overwhelmed at times as it is now.
“We’re also sure that it would cut the number of visitors coming to beautiful Foxton Locks and hit its level of income as a result.
“Do we want to become known as the new prison capital of the East Midlands?
“Put simply - this scheme should be withdrawn by the MoJ now,” said Cllr Rogers.
Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrats on Harborough council, told the Mail: “I am completely opposed to this new superjail being built at Gartree.
“I am standing four square beside Lubenham Parish Council and other local parishes like Foxton fighting this.
“It will have an overwhelming impact on the local environment, infrastructure, housing and traffic.
“The whole enterprise will be seriously negative for the whole of Harborough.
“I’m deeply concerned by this proposal,” said Cllr Knowles, the ward councillor for nearby Great Bowden.
“The MoJ should do the decent thing now – and take it off the table.
“I’d also encourage everyone to step forward and tell Harborough council now to kick this superjail into touch.”
Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough council, told the Mail: “I know that there are concerns about this in the local community.
“I fully understand that.
“The MoJ’s plan is being properly and comprehensively evaluated during our council’s planning process.
“Local people can be assured of that.
“As for what happens beyond that, we will have to wait and see,” said Cllr King.
“But I won’t want to comment any further than that because this is a planning application that is live at the moment.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:“We want to hear the views of the local community before we consider submitting a planning application, and welcome their comments. No final decisions have been made.”