The bitter fight to stop a new £300 million “superjail” being built near Market Harborough is being stepped up.
Furious parish council chairmen issued a warcry through the Harborough Mail to local people last week to unite to halt the 1,700-inmate male prison at Gartree in its tracks.
Now villagers in nearby Gumley are joining to battle as it gathers pace – insisting the proposed prison would “desecrate” the entire area.
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien is also imploring residents to make their views known to Harborough District Council, the planning authority.
He spoke as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has filed an outline planning application to the council for the enormous “superjail”.
The new penal establishment would create up to 700 jobs and inject about £75 million into the local economy if it gets the go-ahead.
The MoJ also wants to expand and upgrade the existing 57-year-old high-security prison at Gartree by about 250 inmates to take it up to about 900 prisoners altogether.
Today angry John March, chairman of Gumley Parish Meeting, said: “The staff numbers quoted for the new prison will mean extra vehicle pressure on our narrow roads at shift turnover times.
“Many staff use our village road now so this will get worse.
“A new super prison would desecrate the area and change the character of the village, turning Gumley into a commuter rat run,” said Mr March.
“The impact would be widespread and deeply damaging to the area.”
Penny March, who also lives in Gumley, said: “I have had two cats killed on the road through Gumley village.
“How long will it be before it’s a child or a person?
“Yes, it could have been an ordinary motorist.
“But if you stand on the pavement at either end of the working day you can see prison officers in their uniforms driving too fast through the village.”
Campaigners battling the MoJ’s high-profile scheme are also being backed by the Earl of Onslow, who lives in Gumley.
“This will be detrimental to the village and the region and is only beneficial to Westminster,” said Rupert Onslow.
“The Harborough region has less than average unemployment, so the personnel for this new prison will have to drive from many miles away, applying pressure to the roads and transport system and also having a negative environmental impact.”
Gumley villagers are highlighting their key objections to the far-reaching initiative in a campaign poster.
Use of greenfield land and separation area is against planning policy and would lead to a loss of natural habitat
Lack of infrastructure, roads and bus services is unable to support a radical increase in workers, visitors and service vehicles, with no cycle ways or footpaths to the site
Oversized development would critically increase flooding - especially in Foxton and Lubenham
Upgrading sewerage would require huge work to supply pipes and at local water treatment works, affecting roads and residents
Light pollution from security lighting visible 24 hours a day in the night sky from miles around would seriously impact on residents and wildlife
The sharp increase in the prison population would have a detrimental effect on local services and the NHS particularly.
People are being urged to object to the new superjail, APPLICATION 21/01600/OUT, by visiting: https://pa2.harborough.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=makeComment&keyVal=QYT0SHHW0MS00People have until Sunday February 6 to comment on the planned prison.
People can also object by writing to Planning Dept Harborough District Council, Adam & Eve Street, LE16 7AG, or emailing [email protected]
Cllr Diana Cook, chairman of Lubenham Parish Council, and Cllr Adele Rogers, chairman of Foxton Parish Council, have both told the Mail that they will “fight tooth and nail” to block the proposed Gartree superjail.
Meanwhile, Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said he is “encouraging constituents to have their say” on the twin proposals to build the new jail and extend the current one.
“This is obviously a big decision and I want to make sure people don’t feel they missed their chance to have their say.
“I’ve been working closely with Harborough District Council, Leicestershire County Council and the Ministry of Justice to relay concerns that have been raised with me by local residents and parish councils,” said Neil.
“One of the key issues we’ve been discussing is around the impact of additional traffic on the local roads and villages, notably Gartree, Lubenham and Foxton.
“I would very much encourage people to share views and opinions with the council as part of the official planning process here to ensure they feature within the final report on this.
“If you have any views, opinions or concerns you think need to be acknowledged and addressed, please do share this with the council via the planning section of their website,” said the Conservative MP.
“I will also continue to liaise with local authorities and the Ministry of Justice on this application to ensure areas of concern are looked at.”