THE Ministry of Justice says it is confident construction work will start on the Wrexham ‘super prison’ this summer.
Full planning permission is still to be granted on the £250 million, 2,100-inmate jail, but the biggest step forward yet was made on Monday night when Wrexham Council planners approved an outline planning bid by a majority vote.
There were 14 votes for, one against (Cllr Keith Gregory) and three abstentions in the crunch vote, which was a first gauge of the council’s stance on an application dubbed the biggest ever to come before Wrexham Council.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said: “We are pleased planning permission has been approved.
“We remain in no doubt that the prison will be a huge boost for the regional economy.
“It is set to boost the regional economy by around £23 million per year, providing millions of pounds worth of construction opportunities and great possibilities for local businesses.
“The first prison in North Wales will also allow offenders to be held closer to home, which will allow better support for their rehabilitation and reintegration into their community on release.”
The MoJ would not comment further on who would be contracted to build the prison or how it would be run.
A Wrexham Council spokesman said the principle of building a prison on the site had been approved but that a more detailed planning application, looking at its design, is due to be submitted and considered by the planning committee in the near future.
This will also be subject to further public consultation.
Concerns have been raised about the size of the prison, which is set to hold about 2,100 inmates, and how it will be run.
Caia Park community councillor Carrie Harper fears the prison will be too big.
She said: “The size of the prison is my main concern.
“The needed capacity for a North Wales prisons about 800 inmates and the proposals are for more than 2,000 at the moment, which will be the biggest in the UK.
“That model has been shown not to work in the UK. I support the idea of a prison in North Wales, but we just need a much smaller one that also has provisions for women and a provision for Welsh speakers.
“As it stands about 75 per cent of the population of the prisoners would be outside from North Wales, so why do we need a prison of that size here.”
Cllr Harper was also concerned about whether the prison would be publically or privately run, something which she says would have a bearing on how many local jobs would be kept in the area.
She said: “There are still lots of unanswered questions, especially of whether the prison will be publically or privately run.”