Wrexham £250m super-prison outline plans backed
A 2,000-inmate super-prison for Wrexham has taken a big step forward with planners backing the proposals.
A large majority of Wrexham council's planning committee approved outline planning permission for the £250m jail, which will be the UK's biggest.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announced in September the former Firestone site was its choice.
However, opponents have complained of the disruption the prison might bring and a lack of consultation.
Planning committee chair Mike Morris said the council had "never had an application of such magnitude before".
Fourteen councillors voted in favour of the prison, one voted against and there were three abstentions.
Located on the Wrexham Industrial Estate, the UK government says 760 jobs will be created at the jail - generating £23m a year for the local economy.
The plans include three four-storey house blocks, up to 18m (59ft) in height, with a compound surrounded by a fence that would be 160m (525ft) from the nearest homes at Pentre Maelor.
But officials say the area is already dominated by industry and businesses, according to a report to the council planning committee.
"The prison buildings will be no closer to Pentre Maelor and the warehouse buildings of the F Lloyd Penley site or buildings of the Hydro Aluminium site," they say.
More than half the prison workforce is expected to be local, and it is estimated that expenditure in the Wrexham economy will be equivalent to another 80 full-time jobs.
"The selection of the site for an important piece of national infrastructure is a significant and positive endorsement of both the Wrexham Industrial Estate and the County Borough," the report adds.
"Furthermore, the location of a major employer in the county borough will result in job opportunities for local people that currently do not exist."
However, Abenbury Community Council, which represents the Pentre Maelor area, strongly objects to the development.
It complains of "insufficient consultation with the local community, either during the process of identifying the site or after the announcement of the selection of the former Firestone site".
Residents have also questioned the findings of traffic surveys, noise levels during construction, and ecological impacts.
The charity, Butterfly Conservation Wales, has also objected to the plans.
It says the site is a "key landscape" for the Grizzled Skipper butterfly - and one of only five "robust populations left in Wales".
But responding to the concerns, planning officers at the council concluded: "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."
Councillors were recommended to approve outline planning permission, but on the condition of funding for a number of community projects.
Those include plans to fund extra bus services in the area.
The report also called for a scheme of "ecological mitigation measures" for land next to the site, and the long term-management of those areas.