WREXHAM could be in line to house Britain’s largest prison.
The Ministry of Justice yesterday announced six prisons are to close in England, with three more being partially shut down, in a bid to bring down the cost of the prison system.
A feasibility study on a jail housing up to 2,000 inmates in either London, the North West or North Wales is to begin and Wrexham, specifically the former Firestone rubber factory on Wrexham Industrial Estate, could be on the shortlist.
The site had previously been earmarked as a possible location for a smaller, local prison.
The new proposal is for a so-called ‘super prison’ with the potential to create hundreds of jobs.
AM Aled Roberts, who fought for a new prison during his time as leader of Wrexham Council, believes it would be a huge benefit to Wrexham and the region as a whole.
He said: “We need to see more detail on what type of prison it would be but I think all the councils across North Wales would welcome this in the region.
“If a prison of this size was proposed it’s clear that Wrexham would be the main site under consideration.
“When I was leading the council this was certainly an important issue, especially as far as jobs go.
“And the Wrexham link road, which was in the planning stage then, has now made it an even better prospect.
“Especially as the facility in Shrewsbury is one of the six being closed there is a real need in this region to service Mid and North Wales.
“This is a time when the North Wales councils need to pull together and put forward a strong case for North Wales.”
But Wrexham MP Ian Lucas has concerns about the super prison in Wrexham, claiming it is “not the right location”.
He said the locations of North Wales, the North West and London were suggested by the Ministry of Justice “in line with demand” but he questioned whether North Wales needs space for 2,000 prisoners.
“Essentially, I support the idea of a prison in North Wales,” he said.
“But there are only about 1,000 people in custody with addresses in this region so we may find around half of the prisoners are actually from the North Wales area.
“And the Firestone site in Wrexham has been suggested for a prison before but I don’t think it’s the most appropriate site because it’s not very central in the region.”
Cllr Neil Rogers, current leader of Wrexham Council, added: “Wrexham Council has always supported the principle of a new prison facility being established in North Wales and this continues to be the case.
“Any new development would create a significant number of much-needed employment opportunities, as well as providing a boost for the construction industry through the procurement of goods and services from local companies.”
The potential for a new super-prison in Wrexham has divided opinion among its residents.
Nicola Hughes, 58, from Wrexham said: “Wrexham’s got enough problems at the moment without this.
“I’d be worried about what it might mean for the community.
“Yes it would create jobs but I’m not sure that would make up for the negatives.
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”
Brian Ashfield, 54, who has elderly relatives in Llay, said: “Prisons are pretty secure these days so I don’t think it would be too much of a problem.
“And it would provide much more work in the area.”
And 52-year-old Tina Ashfield added: “I wouldn’t be happy if my property was in the area because they’ll be the ones who will really be affected with house prices and things. But I guess the industrial estate doesn’t have a lot of housing nearby.
“And with the number of shops and factories closing at the moment we need more
jobs being created.”
Joanne Irving, 38, from Wrexham, said: “I don’t really like the idea of having it on my doorstep and I’d worry the prisoners would stay in the area once they had been released which could cause more crime.”
But 48-year-old Peter Jones, of Caia Park said: “It’s a fab idea.
“It will create lots of jobs and boost the economy.”
And James Jones added: “If it’s going on Wrexham Industrial Estate I can’t see what the problem is, it’s got to go somewhere.
“People would soon be complaining if there was nowhere for prisoners to go.”