£250m super prison to create 1,000 jobs in north Wales

Matthew Richards reports from the proposed site in Wrexham

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North Wales has been chosen as the site of a £250m super prison which the Ministry of Justice says will create 1,000 jobs.

Locations in London and north west England, including Cumbria, were also in the running for a jail with room for 2,000 inmates.

It is expected to be built on a site on a Wrexham industrial estate by 2017.

As well as providing an economic boost, it is argued it will make family visits easier.

The announcement is worth £100m in the current spending round and could be worth £23m a year to the north Wales economy.

Wrexham has been campaigning to host the prison with the backing of other local councils in the region.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'My priority is to provide enough prison places for those sent there by the courts and to do so in a way that gives taxpayers the best possible value for money.

"This will be the first prison in north Wales and a massive boost to the Welsh economy."

Start Quote

This will be the first prison in north Wales and a massive boost to the Welsh economy”

End Quote Chris Grayling MP Justice Secretary

He added: "It will also allow offenders from the region to be held closer to their homes, which we know helps prevent reoffending.

A decision on the make up and exact location will be made "in due course" and work should start in 2014 with the prison fully operational by late 2017.

Welsh Secretary David Jones said it would create jobs and "much needed economic opportunities."

"I know that having the prison in north Wales is particularly important for families - especially Welsh speakers and professional advisors, and its significant capacity will go some way to help the current issue of space shortage," he added.

Councils, health officials and emergency services in the region have already supported the proposals.

North Wales assembly member Aled Roberts said the government had clearly been impressed with the business case for north Wales.

Welsh Secretary David Jones explained the benefits for north Wales

"Many across north Wales, including the six local authorities, have worked together on this bid and it shows what can be done when we work as a team," he said.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick said a prison in north Wales would help rehabilitate offenders "by making them more accessible to their families, the probation service and the youth justice service".

Prison charity Howard League for Penal Reform said it was opposed to "super-size prisons".

"All the evidence suggests that the larger the prison, the more it's associated with problems with managing prisoners," said director of campaigns Andrew Neilson.

"These very large prisons also face problems controlling issues like drugs and violence."

It is not the first time a prison for north Wales has been considered but the Ministry of Justice dropped plans for a jail in Caernarfon in 2009.

Road and rail

Two potential sites have been identified at Kingmoor Park and the former Firestone factory site, both on Wrexham Industrial Estate, which already provides work for 10,000 people.

The announcement was made by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, which includes £100m in this spending round

Tom Bunce, chair of the industrial estate's business forum, said although he could see the prison would benefit the area he was concerned it could see workers moving from existing businesses.

"The applicants won't all be unemployed people and [the prison] will be looking for good people already in work too."

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas said the period before work begins should be used to boost road and IT infrastructure for the area.

Winston Roddick, the police and crime commissioner for the region, welcomed the plan

He said: "We should use this time to bolt on to the project improvements in roads and broadband connections to Wrexham Industrial Estate - if that is to be the prison site."

He added that it could also lead to development of the Wrexham-Bidston rail line, given that the prison would also house inmates from outside the area.

In February, the North Wales Regional Leadership Board - which groups together council leaders and emergency services - said the size of the proposed prison means it must serve north Wales and parts of north west England and the West Midlands.

In May, Flintshire council cabinet members said they favoured the Firestone site, which has also won the support of First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The proposed jail would be Category C, for inmates who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt.

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