Plans for new prison 'devastating' says Buckingham MP

Ministry of Justice forging ahead with plan despite local opposition, in area already badly affected by East West Rail and HS2

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 1:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 9:28 am

The Ministry of Justice is forging ahead with plans for a third prison near Grendon Underwood, despite fierce local opposition.

Buckingham's MP, Greg Smith has described it as "devastating news".

In March, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) delayed submitting of an Outline Planning Application (OPA) for a new prison next to HMP Grendon and Springhill, to give it "time to consider the responses that were received at the pre-planning public consultation stage and to address concerns expressed by the local community," new prisons programme director Robin Seaton told the MP in a letter this week.

MP for Buckingham Greg Smith has called it 'devastating news'
MP for Buckingham Greg Smith has called it 'devastating news'

Mr Seaton continued: "Having taken time to consider community feedback, and following a ministerial decision to proceed, we submitted an application yesterday (June 21) for outline planning permission to Buckinghamshire Council as the local planning authority.

"We have made with significant amendments to our original proposals which we hope will address some of the concerns the local community raised with us during consultation.

"We have made some key amendments to our site plans following agreement to purchase some additional land (subject to planning permission), enabling us to redesign the layout.

"In the consultation we said we were considering whether to include a seventh houseblock in the proposal; ministers have decided not to pursue this."

Other changes include:

Moving the prison site further away from the pond and ecological zone, whilst increasing the bio-diversity on the site by at least 10 per cent. This will minimise the impact on local wildlife and retain the existing footpaths around the site;

Location of Springhill Prison sports pitch has moved to be further away from local residents (this sports pitch will not be used by prisoners in the new prison);

Location of houseblocks moved so that they are not built on the highest point of the land, which will improve the visual impact for the local community, as well as having some ecological benefits. The highest houseblock in the new proposal is 9m – more than half its height – lower than the highest houseblock in the previous proposal;

Creation of an additional site access road to the north of Willow Lodge which will lessen the burden of traffic on the existing prison access route.

Greg Smith said: “It is devastating news that after a massive demonstration of opposition to a new prison adjacent to HMP Grendon and HMP Springhill, the Ministry of Justice have decided to move to a planning application.

"I have had multiple meetings with ministers setting out the detailed and reasoned case against this construction in the heart of areas already so badly affected by HS2 and East West Rail, but it seems the government's drive for a rapid increase in prison places has overridden those concerns.

"We have lost the first battle but the war against this development goes on.

"I will now be redoubling my efforts to work with local residents, parishes and Buckinghamshire Councillors to make the case against this prison on planning grounds, so that the application can be rejected."

Full details of the revised plans will be made available via Buckinghamshire Council’s planning portal.

A separate proposal for expansion of the existing category D prison, HMP Springhill, is still being considered. More information will be made available as the proposals are taken forward. Any expansion of the existing site will be subject to a separate planning application.