Concerns raised over future of Horfield Prison site

June 27 2013

A Bishopston councillor has called on the area’s MP to quiz the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) following a report recommending the closure of Bristol Prison in Horfield.

A Bishopston councillor has called on the area’s MP to quiz the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) following a report recommending the closure of Bristol Prison in Horfield.

Councillor David Willingham has written to Bristol West MP Stephen Williams urging him to ask how far forward any proposals might be and how ministry officials would consult residents, councillors and city planners. Bristol Prison

In the letter, he says: “The potential closure of HM Prison Bristol will be of concern to the constituents that we represent and will also be a concern to the city council’s strategic planners, as the opportunity for redeveloping a large brownfield site such as the vacated HM Prison Bristol site would need to be carefully thought through and proposals brought forward in full consultation with local people.”

The call for answers follows the recent publication of a report by influential think-tank Policy Exchange, entitled Future Prisons - A Radical Plan to Reform the Prison Estate. In it, author Kevin Lockyer, a former governor of Bristol Prison and ex-Ministry of Justice deputy director, puts the case for replacing around 30 of the country’s ageing prisons – including Bristol Prison – with 10-12 large “hub prisons” accommodating up to 3,000 people.

Describing the current prison estate as “unjustifiably expensive and not fit for purpose in the 21st century”, he said: “Our new analysis of prison performance demonstrates, for the first time, that the key determinant of the decency, safety and effectiveness of a prison is not its size, but its age. Newer prisons perform better than older prisons, regardless of size.”

Referring directly to Bristol Prison, he said: “HMP Bristol, which occupies a cramped city centre site in the city, has insufficient space to provide activity for, at best, half of its population and, of the work activity it does provide, 40 per cent of the activity was judged in 2010 by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons to be ‘menial’ and offered no meaningful qualifications."

The report proposes building a 3,000-place hub prison to the south of Bristol “close to the M5 corridor”, and closing seven prisons in the South West, including Bristol.

Following its publication, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told local media he felt the report was right to highlight the need to bring costs down and that the MoJ was “developing proposals for the next generation of prisons”.

Dr Willingham told Bishopstonvoice the MoJ needed to “urgently clarify its position on the proposals”, adding: “If this proposal is likely to proceed, the council needs to develop a clear strategic planning vision for the future use of the site, and should do this with full involvement of local residents and businesses.

“Local people could be part of this with the creation of a Neighbourhood Planning Network specifically to consider this site.”

The full report is available to read on Policy Exchange’s website at www.policyexchange.org.uk.