Campaigners in Full Sutton, in Yorkshire’s East Riding, are calling for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to investigate a “broken promise” after obtaining a document they say proves the commitment was made.
The MoJ submitted plans in December for a category C jail to house 1,440 inmates on land next to the existing HMP Full Sutton, a maximum security, 558-capacity prison. Protests have already been held against the move, which nearby householders fear will harm the beauty of the village, drive up drug use and increase traffic congestions.
Now the campaigners who have hired York-based PR company The Partners Group to help fight their cause, have produced minutes from a meeting between council officers and the Home Office in 1979, when plans for the original prison were discussed.
At the time, concerns had been raised about the scheme, but the council decided not to object after planning conditions were placed on the development, the minutes show.
The type-written document, also seen by The Yorkshire Post, shows that a Home Office official said that although two prisons were planned for the site, it was “highly unlikely they would ever want to place a second prison on this land”.
The minutes, obtained under freedom of information rules, said: “If however, this land was required for a second prison the Home Office would undertake to engage in a full scale public enquiry (sic).”
Officials from the former North Wolds Borough Council and Humberside County Council were also at the meeting.
Campaigner Fiona Roberts said: “When proposals for HMP Full Sutton were put forward in 1979 the council chose not to oppose them, despite significant local objection, on the basis that stringent conditions were applied.
“One of those conditions was a promise by the Home Office to undertake a public inquiry should the adjacent land be required for a prison in the future. That condition was accepted, Full Sutton prison was built and now the promise has been broken.”
HMP Full Sutton was eventually built in 1987. In July 2017, the MoJ was granted outline planning permission for a new 1,017-capacity prison next to the existing jail. Another application was then made to increase its size to house 1,440 male inmates.
Campaigners said they are also disputing the process used to select the site of the proposed new jail. Colin Clarke, who has lived nearby for more than 20 years, said: “The Home Office criteria include good access to public transport and motorways and trunk roads, and yet the main route to and from Full Sutton from the motorway network to the west involves crossing a listed bridge that is already heavily congested and hugely over capacity.
“It is 20 miles to the nearest motorway. The whole issue of traffic appears to have been glossed over by the MoJ, and yet the local impact will be colossal.”
East Riding of Yorkshire Council said it could not comment. A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the new prison would be a boost to the area, creating well-paid jobs at the prison and at local suppliers throughout the construction and once it is up-and-running.
He said the Ministry would work with local people concerned about traffic issues.