PLANS to build Britain’s biggest prison in Wrexham are a step closer after being recommended for approval.
The Ministry of Justice’s application for outline planning permission for a 2,100 category C inimateclosed prison on the former Firestone site on Wrexham Industrial Estate is due to go before Wrexham Council’s planning committee next month.
And despite fierce opposition from residents on the nearby Pentre Maelor Estate, the authority’s head of community wellbeing and development, Lawrence Isted, has recommended the plans for approval.
The 76,370 square metre prison will comprise of three accommodation buildings and a further eight buildings to accommodate a kitchen, health centre, reception, education, sports centre, faith centre and staff training.
Within the secure compound there will also be a multi-use games area and an all-weather sports pitch.
It will be enclosed by a 5.2m outer perimeter fence faced with galvanised steel sheet, illuminated by lighting columns and monitored by CCTV cameras and with an inner fence of the same height.
Strong objections to the proposals have been lodged by members of Abenbury Community Council, who have raised concerns over a lack of consultation about the prison, accessibility issues and whether jobs will be given to local people.
Chairman of the community council, Ray Squire, who lives on the Pentre Maelor Estate, has condemned the proposal to approve the application.
North Wales Police have also made recommendations regarding the design of the prison, to assist in designing out potential crime associated with it and ensure the security of the site, after consultations with South Wales and Staffordshire Police suggested recorded crime levels in the area will increase.
Mr Squire said: “They’ve never had a prison this size before and we’ve got people moving out already. People have put their houses for sale but they can’t sell them. People are terrified.”
He added: “It doesn’t surprise me in the least. I think it was a foregone conclusion as they were putting in the paper offering tenders last week. The Prison Reform Society say it won’t bring the number of jobs quoted.”
But in his report Mr Isted said it was anticipated the prison would employ up to 764 people, of whom 413 are expected to come from the local area.
He said: “New prison capacity is needed in the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) prison estate in order to allow older inefficient prisons to be closed and to bring down the overall running costs of the prison system.
“Fifteen sites in North Wales and the North West of England were put forward for consideration. The Firestone Site was found to best meet the MoJ’s site selection criteria.
“The proposed development will be the first prison to be built in North Wales and will allow offenders from the region to be closer to home. This is considered to be an important factor in reducing re-offending rates.
“The prison itself represents a £248 million investment in Wrexham on a site located in one of the main areas of employment in the county borough.
“Expenditure by the prison on goods and services is also expected to be beneficial to the local economy having the potential to create the equivalent of 82 full time jobs.
“It is outside of the scope of planning control to require or ensure that a specific number of jobs are filled by local people.
“The character of the wider locality within which the dwellings are located is already dominated by industrial/ employment uses.”
He said the MoJ had agreed to funding an increase in bus services on Sundays and to ensure they extend to Wrexham General Station.
They have also agreed to fund a signalised pedestrian and cyclist crossing, two news bus shelters and double yellow lines on Bridge Road.
He added: “These proposals will deliver significant investment in a site on the Wrexham Industrial Estate that has been vacant for a lengthy period of time and deliver much-needed additional employment opportunities in the area.
“The development will inevitably result in short-term noise and visual impacts.
“However I’m satisfied that on balance, the impacts will not be significantly harmful and/or can be adequately mitigated and that the development accords with both national and local planning policies.”
The proposals will be considered by members of Wrexham Council’s planning committee on January 6.