Further plans for Gartree 'super prison' set to be approved

There has been strong opposition to the MoJ's plans from the public
It was acknowledged the 'super prison' would cause harm to the area -Credit:MOJ

Further plans for a controversial super prison next to HMP Gartree in a Leicestershire village have been recommended for approval. Outline planning permission has already been granted for the category 'B' prison, which nearby residents fought to prevent being built.

The original plan for the huge super-prison capable of housing 1,700 inmates was rejected in 2022, when councillors in Harborough district voted unanimously to reject the application, against planning officer' advice. At the time, the decision was met by cheers and applause from the residents and parish councillors who had been opposing the bid since plans were put forward.

However, in November last year, 18 months after it was initially rejected, the scheme received the go ahead by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove, who ignored the advice of the government's own planning inspector. With the overall plan approved, this current application covers the layout and appearance of the site.

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Planning documents state there will be 14 buildings within the main prison, in a landscaped setting. The accommodation buildings, called houseblocks, will be four storeys high, and will be "over 100 metres" away from the nearest home, they add.

"The layout of the new prison has been carefully considered in respect of Gartree village and the surrounding area," according to the latest planning application. "It was established during the consideration of the outline planning application and subsequent appeal for the new prison that the distance from the nearest houseblock to the nearest property on Welland Avenue is over 100 metres with open space and a secure fence in between. There is, therefore, minimal risk of overlooking from the houseblocks."

Plans state the proposed entrances and exits to and from the building would be via Welland Avenue. The car park would be located next to the prison entrance off Welland Avenue, and have 530 spaces - 341 for staff and 189 for visitors. It is proposed that a footpath from the site would connect to an existing footpath in Welland Avenue.

The local community has been consulted on the latest plans, with 100 letters sent out, and three site notices posted in the area, the documents state. Four responses raised issues on the original outline planning decision, which included: "Terrible idea. Will ruin the local area, countryside, quality of life for residents and wildlife." Seven comments related to layout, which included: "Can you confirm which blocks will have a direct view into my home? At the moment it appears to be block one only but wanted to confirm."

A further 66 comments were made on the current application. These included "Welland Avenue is a private road and has not been considered by Leicestershire County Council highways and it is way too narrow for two large vehicles to pass, and I see no plans for extending this when operational and this will not only put prisoners at risk for emergency vehicles not being able to get through, but also residents and staff." Each of the comments raised has been addressed in the application.

When the scheme received the go ahead last November, a Government document at the time revealed that Mr Gove agreed with many of the planning inspector’s conclusions on the scheme, but he disagreed with her recommendation to throw out the appeal against the decision to block the prison. Mr Gove said he accepted the evidence put forward by the applicant, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which showed “a significant unmet need” for prison places.

Set to be built next to the existing HMP Gartree, the new prison could host around 1,715 male prisoners, and is named “Gartree Two” in the documents. On production of the new, detailed plans, the MoJ said: “Careful consideration has been paid to the privacy of surrounding residents as well as the integration and improvement of the local environment. These proposals represent a modern prison development, which has been designed to be more rehabilitative to prisoners with practical activities to foster new skills. The working environment for staff is important, along with creating a more welcoming experience to visitors, whilst being considerate to the neighbours and the wider surrounding area.”

The council's planning committee will meet on Tuesday, May 14, to consider the application.