The Ministry of Justice has to listen closely to local people after unveiling plans to build a new £300 million jail next to Gartree Prison, a councillor is warning.
It’s critical that MoJ bosses masterminding the 1,700-inmate jail “fully take on board” the views, opinions and fears of thousands of stunned residents across the area, says Cllr Phil Knowles.
He spoke out as the ministry launches a wide-ranging public consultation into the new plans.
“It’s extremely important that everyone who will be affected by this planned new prison engages with the new inter-active study," said Cllr Knowles, who heads up the Liberal Democrats on Harborough council.
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“This is a huge project.
“And it will have a massive impact on the whole area.
“We are told that it will create 600-700 jobs.
“That’s to be welcomed.
“But we have to look very carefully at how this enormous new jail will impact on our local infrastructure.
“Local roads are going to get much busier,” said Cllr Knowles.
“Have we got enough hospitals, medical centres, dentists and schools to cater for the new influx of people coming into Harborough?
“And what about new houses?
“Will we need hundreds more houses to accommodate new workers flooding into this part of our district?
“We’ve already got thousands more people moving into Market Harborough over the next few years as new estate after new estate is built.
“We’re also hearing rumours that the current Gartree Prison is to be expanded as well.
“We are in danger of an entire triangle of our patch between Foxton, Lubenham and the A6 being turned into one vast prison complex.
“I will take a lot of convincing that building this massive new jail next to Gartree is the right thing to do,” said Cllr Knowles.
“And I suspect that a lot of people who live here will think the same.
“I want to see the full blueprint from the Ministry of Justice so we know exactly what they are planning to do.
“And it’s imperative that they listen to local people.
“Consulting the public is fine – but this can’t be allowed to become just a box-ticking exercise, paying lip service to residents.
“People’s feedback is crucial.
“Our constituents have got to be taken into account and their views respected and acted on.”
The new initiative is set to create up to 700 jobs and plough about £75 million into the local economy if it’s backed by Harborough council, the district’s planning authority.
The planned new jail would be a Category B training prison, locking up long-term and high-security convicts – and will be built over the next four years.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The new prison proposal is part of the MoJ’s New Prison Programme.
“The prison would be the greenest prison built so far and follow a new design that helps aid rehabilitation of offenders, helping make our communities safer.”
She added: “The new prison would also create over 600 permanent jobs in the local area once operational and hundreds of local jobs during construction.
“We want to hear the views of the local community before we consider submitting a planning application.”
The current high-security Gartree Prison is seriously starting to show its age as it dates back to 1965 – and it houses about 630 prisoners.
The Ministry of Justice is now advising people how they can tell them exactly what they think of their high-impact scheme.
“The Ministry of Justice is seeking the views of residents and businesses on proposed plans for a new prison near Market Harborough.
“Having reviewed a number of sites across the country, we believe that land next to HMP Gartree, near Market Harborough would be an appropriate location for a new prison,” says the MoJ.
“Before we progress with these proposals, we want to engage with you and your local community to ensure your views are considered and to share with you the benefits that a potential new prison will bring to Harborough, such as: creating new and local employment opportunities; offering apprenticeships; upskilling people in construction; and spending locally and with social enterprises.
“You can find out more information by clicking the link to view the consultation document.
“You can send us your views by clicking the online survey link.
“Alternatively, you can join us for a virtual ‘webinar’ consultation session by clicking the links below:
Thursday July 15 – 7pm – 8pmFriday 16th July 16 – 1pm – 2pmYou can give your views online by clicking the MoJ link here: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/proposed-new-prison-in-market-harborough/consultation/intro/