It follows an appeal lodged by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) after Harborough District Council’s unanimous decision to reject the application earlier this year. The appeal is due to start in October.
But Mr O’Brien says the benefits of a new facility – which would be built next to the current 57-year-old HMP Gartree near Harborough – do not outweigh the harm it would cause to residents and the local environment.
He expressed his concerns last month but in his recent formal objection, he added: “At the heart of this appeal, is the question of local democracy and planning. Harborough District Council is one of a minority of councils that has an approved local plan, which was developed in consultation with residents and other local stakeholders. This clearly outlines where development can take place, and the site identified by the MoJ is clearly not one of them.”
Mr O’Brien says there are issues with sustainability and poor transport levels, along with low levels of unemployment in the town.
He added: “The narrow country roads weren’t designed for that level of traffic and many residents are concerned about the impact on local bio-diversity and animals such as the seven active badger setts. “Concerns are compounded by the foul water strategy note which states that there may be flooding due to capacity issues at the existing Welland Avenue pumping station and Foxton Waste Water Treatment Works.“I understand and support the need for new prison places, and with a construction project of this size the MoJ really should be considering the wider levelling up objectives as well, and exploring whether there are other places in the country with sites crying out for development or higher rates of unemployment where these jobs would be very welcome.“I asked the MoJ not to appeal this application, but it’s disappointing they chose to proceed with this. I hope the planning inspectorate reviews the evidence carefully as I firmly support the council’s decision to refuse this application.”
Mr O’Brien’s appeal comes as Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab turned down an invitation to visit the site of the proposed prison.A government spokesman said: “The requirement to build new prisons is to enable the prison service to keep up with the predicted rise in the prison population. Due to population pressures, it is imperative we secure planning approvals for new prison spaces to meet demand and create a modern and secure estate for our staff and prisoners.
“The Ministry of Justice is working to fulfil the government’s commitment to deliver 20,000 new prison places, around half of which will be delivered through new build prisons. Any delay to opening new prisons will place significant pressure on the existing estate.
“Should the appeal be successful, we remain committed to working with the local community and stakeholders to minimise any potential disruption caused by the new prison being constructed.”
Councillors voted against the plans at a meeting earlier this year citing concerns about the impact of traffic and developing on open countryside. They had also received 364 objections amid fears over growing pollution, poor air quality and loud noise. But the MOJ argued that the plans would bring great investment to the area.