New Central Lancashire prison: one chance for people to have their say in person this week
Plans for a new 1,700-inmate prison close to the border of Chorley and South Ribble will be given a public airing during an event at Chorley Market this week.
A public consultation into the proposals to build the facility - close to the existing Wymott and Garth jails in Ulnes Walton - was launched last month.
According to a letter sent to residents, a pop-up stall will be open in the outdoor market space on Cleveland Street between 11am and 4pm on Thursday (8th July), where there will be an opportunity for people to “meet the development team, find out more about the proposal and ask questions”.
However, one householder in the area has blasted what he says is a “wholly cynical” attempt to limit the opportunity for locals to gather to interrogate the plans for the category C prison, which would hold inmates deemed at low risk of absconding.
Alan Green condemned the fact that the consultation - which has so far been staged online and via webinars - closes on 19th July, the day that the government is poised to lift the last remaining Covid restrictions. He says that a one-off drop-in event is no substitute for the kind of full-scale public meetings that are likely to be permitted after lockdown is fully lifted.
“How convenient is that? It seems to me that they are just trying to avoid a face-to-face showdown with anybody.
“Doing most of the consultation online is fine for people who are savvy with the technology - but they are going to miss out on lots of views,” Mr. Green said.
He is calling on residents to make the most of the one opportunity they have to make their opinions known in person about the scheme, which would almost double the existing prison population at the location to 3,500, with the new building housing 1,715 inmates spread across seven, four-storey blocks.
“If there is another place in the country that has three large prisons in one area, then it’ll be in the middle of nowhere, not somewhere like Ulnes Walton. If this was Surrey, it wouldn't be happening - but they are clearly thinking that simple Northerners won't give them much opposition.
“It’s not nimbyism, but there is a limit to how much we should have to put up with. Sometimes you've got prisoners screaming at each other through the windows.
“There is also a weight limit on the road to the existing prisons - and yet they are going to permit all the vehicles needed to build the new one and the HGVs to make deliveries once it’s open - not to mention all the staff and visitors,” Mr. Green said.
A rail study commissioned by Central Lancashire's three district councils last year floated the idea of opening a new station to serve the Wymott and Garth prisons, which are within 250 metres of the Ormskirk to Preston railway line. However, it noted that there would be “significant political, security and social considerations” for such a project.
Whatever the outcome of the consultation into the new jail, planning permission would be required from Chorley Council before any development could go ahead. If it were to get the green light, it is estimated that the facility could create between 600 and 700 jobs.
The proposal is part of a £4bn government programme to create 18,000 new prison places by building four new jails in order to tackle overcrowding in the prison estate and provide better rehabilitation for inmates.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: “In addition to the outdoor consultation event, we have held two online sessions and set up a phoneline and email account for residents to tell us their views.”