Anger at 'mini-prison' plan

A CONTROVERSIAL �10million detention centre in a Suffolk town feared to become a “mini-prison” will be up running by next year.

Will Clarke

A CONTROVERSIAL �10million detention centre in a Suffolk town feared to become a “mini-prison” will be up running by next year.

Residents in Bury St Edmunds close to the site of a proposed Police Investigation Centre on Romany Way fear the 36 cell 3,000 square foot centre, complete with exercise yard, will become a “mini prison”.

But police have insisted the cells will only be used for prisoners under lock and key for an average of nine to ten hours.

Adrian Williams, retired headteacher and Bury resident, said: “The size of it suggests it is more of a mini prison than a police station. People have been reassured by the police but there are still lingering concerns - with the overcrowding in the system - that people will be kept there for longer.”

Paul Farmer, St Edmundsbury Borough Council member whose ward borders the centre, said residents were deeply concerned about the prospect of the centre on their doorstep and called for it to be built further away from residential areas.

Most Read

“People were concerned and they still are,” he said. “It is very close to people's homes and they believe it would better sited on an industrial estate. While there is a need for this type of facility local people do not want it located near a residential area.”

Their views were supported by the Suffolk Preservation Society, which has expressed “strong reservations”.

A society spokesman said: “It makes no sense to place police detention centre so close to a major town and would be more acceptable sited somewhere less damaging… away from residential areas.”

However, it is now thought the centre, which won planning approval in 2007, will be up and running by 2010 after Suffolk police awarded the valuable contract to build and run the centres to Justice Support Services.

Carl Puiy , head of custody services, said currently prisoners were being kept in facilities in old police stations which were not up to modern standards.

He also said short term prisoners in existing stations in Bury were being kept closer to residential areas than the new facility will be holding people, without problems.

He said “There has never been an issue at existing stations when people are released from custody. And the new Bury centre is further away than any other station.

“People think it is a mini prison when it is not. It is a police facility for short term holding up to a maximum of 36 hours or with magistrates' approval up to 96hours.”