North East Wales

£250m super-prison to be built on ex-Firestone factory land

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Media captionWelsh Secretary David Jones says the prison will being economic benefits to the area

The location for north Wales' new 2,000-inmate super-prison has been announced by the Ministry of Justice.

The £250m jail will be built on the Welsh government-owned former Firestone site on the Wrexham Industrial Estate, creating 1,000 jobs.

The closure of four prisons - Reading in Berkshire, Dorchester in Dorset, Blundeston in Suffolk and Northallerton in North Yorkshire was also announced.

There are also plans to replace Feltham Young Offenders Institution in London.

In north Wales, two sites in Wrexham had been shortlisted for the new jail - both on the same industrial estate - but the owners of one of them said last week it was out of the running.

The jail should be built by 2017 and worth £23m a year to the local economy.

It will be a Category C prison used for inmates who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt.

Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling said: "I can today announce that, following the assessment of several site options and subject to local planning approval, the new prison will be built on the former Firestone site in Wrexham.

"Work will begin on-site next summer with the prison fully operational by late 2017.

"The new prison will provide up to 1,000 much-needed jobs, great opportunities for local businesses and millions of pounds worth of construction opportunities.

"It also provides north Wales with its first ever prison, offering an opportunity for offenders from the region to be closer to their homes."

Earlier this week, the Howard League for Penal Reform said almost a quarter of all prisoners in England and Wales were kept in overcrowded cells in the year to April.

Figures showed about 19,140 inmates on average were made to share a cell designed for one person.

The closure of four prisons follows an announcement in January that six entire prisons were to shut plus one of the three amalgamated jails on the Isle of Wight.

Image caption This is how the super-prison could look, according to artist impressions released by the Ministry of Justice
Image caption The prison would be built on the site of the former Firestone tyre factory in Wrexham
Image caption This is how the super-prison could look inside
Image caption This is a prototype of how the super-prison could look - but the final details have not been finalised

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that jails held an average of just over 85,000 prisoners between April 2012 and March this year.

'Economic benefits'

Locations in London and north west England, including Cumbria, had also been in the running for the super prison.

But Wrexham's campaign to host the prison with the backing of other local councils in the region, paid off in June when the town was chosen.

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

But the owners of Kingmoor Park said in August they have optioned a large section of its land to Wrexham Power, which hopes to build an £800m gas-fired power station.

It left the former Firestone site as the only other option for the prison.

The Welsh government said the 108-acre former Firestone site - supported by First Minister Carwyn Jones - was acquired by the then Welsh Development Agency in 1994 and was prepared for development shortly after.

It has been on the market for employment use "for a number of years".

Welsh Secretary David Jones welcomed the announcement.

He said: "The construction of this much needed facility will bring with it considerable economic benefits for local businesses, and create up to 1,000 employment opportunities across the region.

"It will facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders by making them more accessible to their families, legal advisers and the probation service, enabling a smoother transition back into the community.

"It will also benefit prisoner welfare by allowing Welsh speakers more opportunity to speak the language in an environment where its cultural significance is understood."

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the announcement was a "big boost" for Wrexham.

"The current arrangements whereby prisoners from north Wales have to serve their sentences in England are far from ideal," he added.

"The Welsh government has long supported seeing a prison built in north Wales and I am very pleased that the benefits of having a prison in Wrexham have been recognised by the UK government.

"We will work closely with the Ministry of Justice, local authorities in north Wales and other partners to ensure its success."

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.

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