March 12 2014 Latest news:
Monday, December 23, 2013
An end of an era will be marked at Blundeston prison today with a flag-lowering ceremony and a march by officers and staff.
The closure of the prison, which opened in 1963 near Lowestoft, comes despite a determined campaign to save it.
There are now concerns over the future of the site, with calls for local people to be fully involved in the decision-making process.
When news of the prison’s closure was announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in September, it was described as a slap in the face for its staff and a disaster for the local economy. There have been suggestions the site could be redeveloped for housing, although the MoJ says that it was too early to say what would happen to it.
Graham Wade, chairman of Blundeston Parish Council, said if homes were to be built on the site, he hoped its redevelopment benefited the community in the long-term.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said the closure was “very much an end of an era”. He added: “The way the decision was made and announced was unsatisfactory and I am very much aware of the distress caused to staff and their families.
“It is now important decisions are made quickly on its future use.”
A legal challenge had been made by an inmate at Blundeston to keep the prison open but was later dropped. There were more than 100 officers and a further 130 staff at Blundeston, which had a capacity for 526 inmates and a 60-bed wing for those serving life sentences.
Most prison officers have relocated to Norwich Prison and inmates have been sent to other prisons across East Anglia.
The MoJ says the closure of Blundeston and three other prisons, all said to be either too expensive to run or needing major investment, will help it save about £30m a year.