Monday, April 12, 2010

Ministry of Justice take the people of Wickford for fools over new prison

There is a proposal to build a new prison in Runwell, which is in Chelmsford but on the border of Wickford in Basildon District. The local people are, not surprisingly, rather less than pleased, having voted two to one against the proposal in a recent survey. Now, we all agree that we need more prisons, and Chelmsford Borough has no particular problem with having another prison. The site is also entirely already in public ownership, which when you think about it is a bit of a coincidence. What are the odds that the perfect place for a prison from an economic, social and transportation perspective is also already owned by the government? Just how stupid do they think that the people of Wickford are? For what it's worth my contacts at Chelmsford reckon there are much better locations in the Borough, but these would require the tedious business of land assembly from a variety of public and private owners. Someone has clearly decided that it is better to go for the site that the government already owns and flannel the locals.

The other claim from the MoJ is that the prison will be some huge economic benefit to Wickford. Let's explore this for a moment shall we? Based on MoJ figures the prison will employ 900 people, but based on their own figures only half of them are expected to live in Basildon District. Also, based on correspondence from the MoJ the expectation is that most of these jobs will be relatively low-paid. So, there you have it: 450 mainly low-paid jobs. We can get that from one medium-sized factory on a tenth of the land area, probably with better jobs too. This is not the stuff of which booms are made.

Anyway, Basildon's Cabinet has voted to make representations to Chelmsford to turn the proposal down. Let's hope they do that, and that they aren't overruled by some Planning Inspector in Whitehall. Everyone is talking about localism.

Let's see some.