A Welsh council has volunteered to be the site for a new prison

Source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/land-south-wales-been-proposed-12676552

Rhondda Cynon Taf was one of 20 UK councils to volunteer

Land has been proposed as a possible site for a new prison.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council submitted plans to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) last year about suitable land for building a new prison in the area.

It was one of 20 local authorities across England and Wales to respond to a MoJ request asking for suitable sites to be proposed and was the only Welsh council to do so.

Other areas on the list included Sandwell council in the West Midlands, Tunbridge Wells council, Derbyshire council, Lancaster council and Kent council.

The list was revealed in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request which explained that there was no legal obligation for councils to respond to the MoJ request and that the proposals were supplied voluntarily.

But the identity of some councils was excluded from the FOI response because of a potential “adverse effect” on those who “have specifically not consented”.

The MoJ said the reasons for this included that “premature” disclosure about such an “emotive” issue could be harmful.

The specific locations of the suggested sites have not been revealed.

No planning application received

A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf said the local authority has not received a planning application for the siting of a prison.

He said: “The Ministry of Justice did write to all local authorities in the UK last year, requesting details of the sites both in public and private ownership, which met a specific list of criteria.

“This was a request made to all local authorities in England and Wales. The council responded to this enquiry, but there has been no further discussion or correspondence from the Ministry of Justice with the council.”

The spokesman added: “No further correspondence from the Ministry has been received, which means there is currently no proposal or application for such a development on any sites within Rhondda Cynon Taf.”

Councillor Pauline Jarman, leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Plaid Cymru group, said: “The prospect of a prison coming to Rhondda Cynon Taf I think would come as a massive surprise to the community wherever it would be located.

“Given that the things we have seen recently, like the unrest in the prison community, it doesn’t lend itself to be the type of development you welcome with open arms at the moment.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “We are committed to transforming all prisons into places of safety and reform, and as part of our wholescale reforms, 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.”

She added: “No decisions have yet been made on the locations of new prisons, beyond the outline planning applications we have submitted for new prisons at Wellingborough and Glen Parva.”

It comes as the largest prison in the UK opened in Wales on Monday.

The new £212m HMP Berwyn in Wrexham will hold 2,100 inmates when it’s fully operational.

The prison, which has new gyms, five-a-side pitches, a library and a visiting room with a play area for children, will mainly have Category C inmates which are classed as prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to escape.

It may take some Category B prisoners who are classed as posing a large risk to members of the community if they escape.