RESIDENTS have raised fears that plans for a new super prison in Wrexham are being ‘steamrollered’ through.
Their fears were raised after it was revealed an outline planning application is being entered within the next two to three weeks.
The information was revealed by Ministry of Justice officials at a meeting with residents from the Pentre Maelor estate, which sits opposite the former Firestone site on Wrexham Industrial Estate.
Residents gathered at Abenbury Community Centre, where they voiced their anger at plans for the £250m facility.
Ministry of Justice programme manager, Neil Caves, also said the prison is expected to stay on the site for a minimum of 60 years, but it could remain for as many as 100 years.
It was also revealed it will be an all-male training prison, where inmates are expected to be in work or education from 9am-5pm from Monday to Friday.
Mr Caves said: “If they don’t work they don’t get privileges such as Mars Bars and cigarettes.”
In response to residents’ queries over why Wrexham was chosen and whether the planning application could be fast-tracked, Mr Caves said: “We identified a large area we wanted to look at for suitable sites and Wrexham was chosen as the most suitable area.
“We will submit a planning application and what we didn’t want to do was put an application in before speaking to the community.
“We will be putting planning in in the next two or three weeks. If permission is given we would look to start work in summer of next year.
“We have to, as a ministry, abide by planning rules and regulations, there’s no fast-tracks.”
But when pressed by residents he admitted he was yet to oversee a prison planning application which had been denied permission.
Abenbury community council chairman, Raymond Squire, said: “The little man is not being listened to, we’re being steamrollered into this.”
Pentre Maelor resident, Jonathon Williams, raised concerns over the number of prisoners who might escape from the prison.
Mr Caves said in the past year only one person had escaped from inside a prison in the UK.
Questions were also asked about the likelihood of jobs going to local residents after one resident said they had heard staff weren’t allowed to live within a certain distance of the prison.
But Mr Caves said: “I have delivered 13,000 new prison places and never have I come across a rule you can’t have someone living near the prison.”
Concerns were put to him about the impact of the prison on the road network, with as many as 1,000 extra road movements a day expected.
Janet Crowther, who lives on the Pentre Maelor estate, said: “The infrastructure on the estate is not conducive.
“I was told they would be encouraging people to drive here and to cycle here. The infrastructure isn’t here.
“The main place that would’ve been better is Chester, you’ve got the A55 from North Wales, the M56, a main line train station and the coach station. Surely that would’ve been a better option.”
Fears were also raised about the possibility of works on the site, which used to house a munitions factory, unearthing cancerous materials.
Mr Caves said appropriate ground checks would be carried out before work began, as well as looking at the impact of vehicle movements on the local road infrastructure.