Change of government leaves Wrexham prison bid in limbo

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

WREXHAM’S controversial prison bid is in limbo, the Leader can reveal.

The plan, which could see up to 850 jobs created in the town, is on hold because of the change of government.

Wrexham Council says it is now seeking “urgent clarification” of the situation.

In a major policy announcement late last week, the new coalition government made no mention of pressing ahead with a proposal by the previous Labour administration to build a 1,500-capacity jail in either North Wales or the North West of England.

And the Ministry of Justice was non-committal on the issue when directly questioned by the Leader.

Crispin Blunt, Tory MP for Reigate in Surrey who has taken over as Prisons Minister, has as yet made no statement on new jail construction.

Wrexham Council leader Aled Roberts admitted the prison bid was in limbo. “It is not clear what is happening,” he said.

“A new Prisons Minister has only just been announced and has made no announcement of his intentions about new prisons.

“It is difficult to see what will happen as Liberal Democrat policy is for a moratorium on the building of new prisons while Conservative policy was that the building programme should continue. We will be seeking urgent clarification.

“Our stance has always been that if the government intends to build a new prison, we should ensure Wrexham is in the running.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are in the very early stages of a new government and ministers will wish to consider the full range of justice policy.”

If the plan has been dropped, it means Wrexham’s hopes of seeing hundreds of jobs created for the construction and running of a jail have been dashed.

The town has already lost out once in the prison stakes when the last government chose a site near Caernarfon for the development instead of the shortlisted former Firestone factory plot on Wrexham Industrial Estate. Ironically, the Caernarfon location was also ditched after experts identified problems with the site.

When this sparked a new search for a site last year, Wrexham immediately put two possibles forward – the Firestone factory again, along with the former Owens Corning fibreglass factory, also on the industrial estate.

The issue has sparked controversy in the town, with some residents staging protests against the bid.

Other local authorities have submitted their own bids.

Other sites in the running are the Anglesey Aluminium Factory in Holyhead; the former BP site at Rhosgoch, also on Anglesey; the former Morfa military camp at Tywyn, Gwynedd; and the old Greengates farm complex near St Asaph Business Park, Denbighshire.

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