An outline planning application for a new ‘Super Prison’ that will house around 2,100 Category C prisoners on the former Firestone Site was granted this evening.
The £250million development on the Wrexham Industrial Estate was described by one Councillor as a ‘lifeline for the economy of Wrexham’, with Committee Chairman, Cllr Mike Morris stating that: “We have never had an application of this magnitude.”
It is stated in the planning documents that the prison will occupy 26 hectares of the former Firestone site.
Speaking to the Committee Cllr Morris said: “We have three ways forward. We can accept the report as it is, refuse it and provide a reason, or accept it with modifications.”
A number of ‘modifications’ were made to the report, including ecological mitigations and examination into highways, in particular the junction on the Industrial Estate.
The application was passed with 14 Councillors voting in favour of the prison, while one member of the Committee voted against. A further three Councillors abstained from voting.
The Wrexham Super Prison will house Category C inmates, however its perimeter fence, entry building and house blocks will be built to Category B standards. The decision to build the prison to Category B standards is listed in the report as being: “consistent with other recently constructed prisons and provides long term flexibility for the Ministry of Justice should there be a change in demand for price places over time.”
Opinions on Wrexham winning the Super Prison bid have been mixed, with some believing it will benefit the town, while others have raised concerns about potential problems it could cause. The Planning Application, which can be viewed here lists pages of concerns from local residents and Community Councils.
A spokesman for the Pentre Maelor area addressed the Committee saying: “You will be surprised there aren’t thousands, hundreds or even tens of people here speaking and objecting. Local people have given up and think the decision has already been made.”
The spokesman continued onto describe the report as ‘controversial’, adding ‘the devil is in the detail.
“There are so many loose ends at this moment of time.” said the spokesman, “The local community say until you have answer, you should defer this. We are asking you to exercise democracy tonight.
Questions were asked by members of the Committee on the proposed public transport figures that are stated in the application. The application states that a contribution of £20,000 per annum for 3 years is required to extend bus services from the Wrexham Bus Station to Wrexham General Railway Station. Along with a contribution of £15,000 per annum for 3 years required to extend bus services for 3 years to provide a Sunday bus service.
Speaking about the figures quoted in the report, Cllr David Kelly said: “I am unconvinced about the recommendations. Are these figures a guesstimate? Why three years? We will have even less buses in place in three years, or can we only do it for three years?
“We’re trying to top up a service that in three years might not be there.”
Contact Officer Mr David Williams said: “Three years is considered reasonable as demand will have been created over the three year period.”
Potential issues with traffic on the Redwither Road/Coed Aben Road/Bridge Road junction, the Bridge Road/Spectrum Business Park roundabout and the Bridge Road/Clywedog Road/Site were also discussed.
Cllr Mark Pritchard said: “I fully support the recommendations in front of us. However I have a few concerns with infrastructure, concerns about traffic on the junction.
Mr Williams said: “Bear in mind it is in the middle of the industrial estate and there is a possibility there would be a development on this site that would also create traffic.”
The report also states that each of the junctions listed above can ‘operate within acceptable capacity within the development.”
Concerns were also raised about the possible increase in crime in the area, that could come as a result of the prison being built. Cllr Graham Rogers said: “I am concerned about additional crime and anti-social behaviour that might happen.”
Reference was also made by Cllr Morris to the recent incident at Oakwood Prison. On Sunday night it was reported that there were problems with the G4S run HMP prison, with ‘trouble breaking out on one of the prisons wings’. However a spokesperson said it would be inappropriate’ to give details on the incident that lasted over five hours. Oakwood prison houses Category C and D inmates.
However the Committee were told by Mr Williams that the report highlights that there is no evidence to suggest there will be an increase in crime in the local area.
Mr Williams said: “There have been a number of detailed concerns raised, which is understandable as it is a huge development.
It was initially quoted that an estimated 1000 jobs could be created as a result of the prison being built. However in the planning application it is stated that around 764 could be employed, with around 413 jobs expected to go to people in the local area.
Cllr Graham Rogers said: “Sure those jobs are highly paid and will go to people who are already highly trained. Can we add something in that says local jobs go to local people?”
Cllr Terry Evans said: “It is a lifeline for the economy of Wrexham. This is one of the most important applications I have seen. It’s up to local people to apply for jobs. It will see improvements to the rail network and bus services.”
In response Mr Williams said: “There is long term investment that will create jobs for the next few years and long term employment.”
We broke the news live from the meeting moments after the vote on one of, if not the biggest, projects ever undertaken in Wrexham. The response via social media has ranged from supporting the decision, to wondering why the Council has supported this move. There is a discussion on our forums regarding tonight’s decision. To take part then simply click here…
(Pictured above the Firestone site / Home to Wrexham’s Super Prison)
The outcome of the vote is – its happening! Wrexham Prison outline planning has been GRANTED.
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) January 6, 2014
The vote was passed with 14 councillors voting in favour of the super prison being built. One voted against and three abstained.
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) January 6, 2014