Controversial 'super prison' will be built in Harborough

The prison has been given the green lightThe prison has been given the green light
The prison has been given the green light
Secretary of State for housing and levelling up, Michael Gove, has decided the prison should go ahead

A controversial super prison will be created in Harborough after the Secretary of State granted planning permission.

A government inspector who held a hearing into the plans recommended they be dismissed.

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But Secretary of State for housing and levelling up, Michael Gove, has instead decided the prison should go ahead.

A letter to Harborough District Council said the Secretary of State ‘agreed with the inspector’s conclusions’ but ‘disagreed with the recommendation’.

It means the 1,700 place category B prison will now be built next to the existing Gartree Prison. It will be the largest category B prison in England and cost around £300million.

Council leader Phil Knowles has hit out at the decision. He said: “This is deeply disappointing news. The planning committee refused this. The community have real and justified fears for the infrastructure's ability to cope. Those who have held the position of Secretary of State throughout this consideration have declined my personal invitations to come here and see just how unsuitable this site is.

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“I still maintain my view that this is the wrong place to build this. The government are intent on pushing this through - they will need to provide huge investment into the community and the infrastructure to help offset some of the negative impact on our community. I will be pushing for an early meeting with MP Neil O’Brien to review this and look at options."

The MP has also expressed his disappointment at the decision.

He told the Mail: “I have done everything I can to stop this. I campaigned against it from the start. I gave evidence ahead of the hearing, I spoke against it in person at the appeal hearing, and I have submitted more evidence against it since, which led to a series of reconsiderations.

“While we do need more prison space so that criminals can get the longer sentences they deserve, I think this is the wrong place to put this prison, and there would be many better sites.

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“Having done everything I can to stop this, the only thing I can see that might now stop this would be for the council to launch a judicial review of this decision. I’m happy to work with them to see if there is anything further we can do.”

Campaigners from Gartree Action Group say the wrong decision has been made.

Group member and Lubenham Parish Council chair Diana Cook said: “This is a sad day for Gartree, a sad day for south Leicestershire and a sad day for local democracy. In April 2022, local people representing local people said ‘no’ to this planning application. Today, the government has disrespected our community and given us something which we don’t want and don’t need and isn't the answer to rehabilitating criminals. They won’t be able to staff it because they can’t get enough workers for the existing prison. This is a bad decision.”

When plans for the prison were first submitted Harborough District Council unanimously rejected them. It was then ‘called-in’ by the Government and a public enquiry took place last October.

Since then, a decision has been pushed back multiple times due to concerns over bus routes, prisoner numbers and staffing