Suffolk 'super-prison' plan emerges

A GOVERNMENT minister's suggestion that a super-prison for 2,000 inmates could be built in Suffolk has left local politicians mystified.

A GOVERNMENT minister's suggestion that a super-prison for 2,000 inmates could be built in Suffolk has left local politicians mystified.

Justice Minister Jack Straw told the House of Commons about a “suggestion that a prison should be built'' in south Suffolk.

However, last night South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo and Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said they knew nothing about any plans for a prison.

Government proposals for three so-called Titan prisons, each one housing up to 2,500 prisoners on 50-acre sites, is currently out for consultation.


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Although no specific sites have yet been identified, Mr Straw told Parliament about the apparent scheme in south Suffolk.

He then went on to criticise Mr Yeo, implying that the local MP had opposed the scheme: “What happens the moment that we try to build prisons, for example … in South Suffolk where there is also a suggestion that a prison should be built - and … land is available?

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“What happens is that we do not get co-operation from the local Conservative members; instead we get opposition, with the member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo) saying they will not have any more prisons in that area.”

Mr Yeo said last night he neither knew anything about plans for a new prison in south Suffolk nor had he had any talks with Mr Straw about jails.

He also said there was nowhere in his constituency suitable for one of the super-prisons and pledged to seek urgent clarification on the matter from the Justice Secretary.

One possible site, according to Mr Yeo, may be the former HMS Ganges naval training centre at Shotley Gate - though a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said no location had yet been chosen to house a Titan prison.

Mr Yeo said: “I am genuinely puzzled as to what Jack Straw is referring. I have never had any discussion with him on any proposals for building a prison in South Suffolk and have not seen any plans, whether in outline on in detail.

“Indeed I do not know where in my constituency there is a suitable site for one.”

Mr Yeo said there might have been plans drawn up in Whitehall for building a prison when the former HMS Ganges naval training establishment at Shotley Gate became vacant, but a firm proposal had neither been published nor even hinted at.

"For Ganges to be used, the roads to Shotley would need a great deal of improvement," said Mr Yeo. “Wherever a prison is considered, there needs to be major public consultation - you cannot build a prison without community support."

Linda Rowlands, clerk to Shotley Parish Council, said there had been some informal talk in the community about a prison on the Shotley Gate site but added the only plans submitted for the Ganges plot had been for hundreds of homes, more than 400 of which were for retirement houses.

She said no contact had been made about turning the site into a prison and said the site itself was “too small” for the type of building required for a Titan prison.

Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said he hadn't heard about any plans for a new prison in the county.

And a spokeswoman for Haylink Ltd, which owns the Ganges site, said it was pursuing plans for homes there and had not been contacted by anybody regarding a possible use for a prison.

In its Titan prison consultation document, the Ministry of Justice its target locations were the Thames Gateway, West Midlands and the north West. However, in the case of London, the Ministry said it might have to expand its search area to find a plot of the right size and one able to accommodate blocks up to five storeys high.

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