Controversial plans to build a new £91m super-size prison near York, branded “fortress-like” by fearful village campaigners, are set to be contested in coming days.
The scheme, for a new prison adjacent to the existing HMP Full Sutton, was revealed by Justice Secretary Liz Truss as part of a plan to reform the crisis-hit jail system. Housing more than 1,000 men, it would be a Category C prison and would create jobs for more than 500 people.
But villagers, fearful of its impact on a small rural community, are to appeal to planners to refuse the application as it is heard on Thursday.
“This is for over 1,000 prisoners from all over the country,” said resident Rupert Towers. “We’re a village that doesn’t even have a shop. We’ve got two buses a day. It’s just not feasible. This is a very rural village. It would completely destroy it.”
The new jail would be one of four developments across the country from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in the North West, Kent and South Wales.
“The size of the prison is determined by the need to provide sufficient long-term capacity in the modern Category C facilities in the region, and would replace old and inefficient prison places elsewhere to support the reform agenda,” documents submitted to East Riding Council say.
But the plans have been met with opposition from a number of local town and parish councils, citing concerns over a lack of infrastructure, transport networks, and harm to the area.
“Its prominent, substantial and fortress-like appearance would mean that it would cause significant material harm to the character, appearance and openness of the surrounding area,” said Full Sutton and Skirpenbeck Parish Council in submissions.
“The development is too big, in the wrong location for the category of prison and the effect is an abuse of the community.”
Objections have been received from Catton Parish Council, Fangoss with Bolton Parish Council, Pocklington Town Council and Yapham cum Meltonby Parish Council, citing a lack of public transport, volumes of traffic, light pollution, and an already over-stretched infrastructure.
“This is a rural area with residents and visitors enjoying views of the Wolds and Vale of York Tourism, especially walking and cycling, plays a key part in the rural economy,” said Yapham cum Meltonby Parish Council in its submission. “Business in our parish could suffer if the area loses its attractive landscape.”
The MoJ has said it is working closely with residents and held a two-day consultation event in April to hear their concerns.
“We are committed to transforming our prison estate, and are investing £1.3bn to build modern new establishments with up to 10,000 new places,” a spokesman said. “We are working closely with the local community and council on the development of the new prison, and residents are able to comment on our proposals online. We have undergone extensive work to ensure the Full Sutton site is suitable for a new development, and our proposals remain subject to planning permission.
“We fully understand the concerns of residents, and are committed to mitigating any disruption that may arise from the development of the site.”
The new £91m prison would be built on land adjacent to the existing HMP Full Sutton, housing more than 1,000 men and designated a Category C prison.
The proposed new facility, which would take 18 to 24 months to build, would include classrooms, workshops, accommodation and kitchens, with 11 buildings up to 16m high and 279 parking spaces.
The plan, from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), would cover a 21-hectare agricultural site, currently housing small areas of woodland, field hedges, ponds and ditches.
It is to be considered by planners at East Riding Council on Thursday, pending further reports.