People across Harborough are being urged - put pen to paper and act now to stop a £300 million superjail being built at Gartree.
You are being encouraged to back the fast-growing fight to block the under-fire prison scheme by firing off your concerns to the Planning Inspectorate by next Wednesday (July 27).
The call to arms is being issued after a public rally was held in Market Harborough to ramp up the district-wide battle to halt the proposed 1,700-inmate high-security male jail.
It went ahead as protesters gear up for a crunch public inquiry to be held in Market Harborough in October as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) launches a last-ditch bid to get the go-ahead.
Today Cllr Phil Knowles, who staged the meeting at the Congregational Church on the High Street on Friday night, told the Harborough Mail: “It was extremely successful.
“We had almost 100 people turn out on a hot night from Market Harborough as well as surrounding villages.
“I addressed the gathering as well as our local MP Neil O’Brien and leading parish councillors from Lubenham, Foxton, Gumley and Great Bowden,” said Cllr Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrats on Harborough District Council.
“We all made the point that the Ministry of Justice’s application to build this monster prison was unanimously kicked out by our council’s planning committee in April.
“There were no ifs and no buts.
“This outrageous jail is outside our Local Plan and Lubenham Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan.
“I’ve twice invited Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, to see this site for himself.
“But I’ve heard not a word back.
“This is all about local democracy,” insisted Cllr Knowles.
“Local people and local councils do not want a second massive penal establishment going up alongside the high-profile prison we’ve already got at Gartree.
“We’ve put out thousands of leaflets in Harborough telling residents why they’ve got to oppose this.
“The new jail would have an enormous negative impact on Market Harborough as well as our entire district on so many levels.
“Our country roads wouldn’t cope, our infrastructure would collapse, pollution would soar and local schools put under pressure.
“So I’m calling on everyone to email the Planning Inspectorate right now to tell them that they to stop the MoJ in their tracks,” said the veteran campaigner.
“The deadline for making your views known is looming fast – so please do it now.”
Cllr Knowles hit out as Harborough MP Neil O’Brien warned the Harborough countryside will be “desecrated” if the giant jail is built.
Mr O’Brien raised the flashpoint issue in the House of Commons last week as he gets behind local activists.
“I am against the new prison plan and in full support of the Gartee Action Group.
“The decision by the public inquiry will be made by lawyers based on legal arguments.
“However, I will do everything in my power to support the action group, who want to see the unanimous decision of the local councillors on the planning committee upheld.
“The suggested location is wrong,” said the Conservative MP.
“It will bring more traffic to a rural area with narrow roads and the size is disproportionate – representing 13 football pitches in total.
“I believe this new prison, if given the green light by the public inquiry, would desecrate the local surrounding area.”
Francesca Broadfoot, joint chair of Gartree Action Group, said: “We welcome Neil’s support and the political weight, knowledge and experience he will bring to our fight against this awful idea.
“A new prison was not in the local plan and also the Lubenham Neighbourhood Plan and with Neil’s help we are going to investigate this further and see how this could help our case.”
Mr O’Brien added: “I would very much encourage local residents to contact the Planning Inspectorate to share comments as part of the appeal, even if they also did so as part of the planning application.”
You can voice your worries to the Planning Inspectorate by Wednesday July 27 in the following ways:
In triplicate by post to Planning Inspectorate , Room 3/26 Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN quoting appeal reference number APP/F2415/W/22/3300227
By email to [email protected] again quoting the above reference
By registering on the Planning inspectorate website Planning Inspectorate and using the ‘Make Representation Facility’.
You can get more information by visiting Gartree Action Group at: