A FREEDOM of information request has revealed Braintree could be home to a new “mega” prison.
Information supplied in response to the request, submitted by Open University lecturer Dr David Scott on behalf of two campaign groups, was made public on Monday.
The data provides a list of 20 local authorities which submitted plans to the MOJ about suitable land for building a prison capable of holding 2,000 inmates last year, including Braintree Council and Tendring Council.
Braintree Council has confirmed it put forward the Wethersfield MOD site.
As part of a public response, Dr Scott said: “It is significant the 20 local authorities are concentrated in certain regions.
“If we read between the lines we can perhaps assume the next three proposed mega prisons will be located in regions that correspond with the highest prison crowding rates.”
Wethersfield is one of 12 MOD sites to be disposed of as part of the department’s plan to reduce the size of its estate by 30 per cent and has previously been considered for housing.
Graham Butland, leader of Braintree Council, said: “My personal view was that it might be a reasonable place for a prison. It’s fairly remote and it’s a brownfield site.
“It would create 1,000 jobs, not including construction, and the new Wrexham prison is putting in about £20 million a year into the economy, but we never heard back from the MOD or the MOJ.”
Alan Bowers, vice chairman of Wethersfield Parish Council, said: “It will be hard to tell what people will think about it.
“I think it’s more about the capacity, I would have thought there would be less people coming in and out than if the site was used for housing.
“People that work there might be interested in buying houses and there would be some employment in that, but not a vast amount.”
The Prison Service stressed that no decisions have been made on new prisons.
A spokesman said: “We are investing £1.3bn to modernise the estate. This will include closing older prisons that are not for purpose and creating in their place high-quality, modern establishments.”
A spokesman for Braintree Council said: “More than a year ago the Ministry of Justice contacted us while in the process of identifying suitable sites for new prisons asking us if we had any sites which met a certain criteria.
“We highlighted that the Wethersfield MOD site possibly met their criteria. There has been no further communication or involvement.”