An invite to visit the location of a proposed £300million super prison has been turned down by the deputy prime minister.
Dominic Raab was invited by Harborough councillor Phil Knowles to visit Gartree and meet with campaigners against the controversial prison.
If given the green light, it would hold 1,700 male inmates – but the Ministry of Justice scheme was unanimously thrown out by Harborough District Council’s planning committee in April. An appeal against the refusal is due to begin in October.
Mr Raab declined the invitation saying he would not visit while an appeal is ongoing.
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A spokesman said: “While we appreciate your invitation for the deputy prime minister to visit the area, as the appeal is ongoing, we do not believe it would be appropriate for the deputy prime minister or representatives from the project to visit or comment further at this time.”
They added prisons are needed due to the rise in inmate numbers.
The proposed prison would be built next to the existing 57-year-old jail in Gartree.
The spokesman added: “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.
Cllr Knowles says he has been left disappointed by Mr Raab’s reluctance to visit.
He told the Mail: “After some delay I received a reply from the Deputy Prime Minister. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, he has declined my invitation to come here to Harborough and to meet with campaigners against the super prison.
“As I said in my invitations to Mr Raab, we are confident of our case, our reasoning as to why the super prison should not be built in Harborough, sadly I think it’s a missed opportunity for him and his team to express their reasons in person as to why they believe this site covering around 14 football pitches in area into open countryside is worthy of consideration.”