EITHER Denbigh or St Asaph are “ideal” sites for a new super-prison to be built.
Last week the Ministry of Justice announced it planned to close six prisons in England and build a big new facility which would either be in London, the North West or North Wales.
The former North Wales Hospital in Denbigh and the Greengates site in St Asaph have both been put forward as possible locations for a prison in the past.
This week community leaders reaffirmed their view that the sites were suitable.
“As far as I’m concerned St Asaph ticks all the boxes,” said St Asaph councillor Bill Cowie, who welcomed the jobs a prison would bring to the area.
“There’s a site available on the side of the A55. It’s just a few miles from the railway station in Rhyl and there’s a huge hospital close by.
“There’s also the police headquarters in St Asaph, to me it just fits the bill ideally.”
The Greengates site, owned by Denbighshire County Council, was shortlisted for a prison in 2010.
And councillors in Denbigh have long supported a prison being built at the former North Wales Hospital.
In 2008 the Free Press revealed government civil servants had visited the former hospital to judge its suitability as a prison.
The Victorian asylum, which still dominates the skyline, opened in 1848 and was the first psychiatric institution in Wales.
It was closed in sections from 1991 to 2002.
In recent years it has deteriorated and Denbighshire County Council has spent nearly £1million on urgent repairs to the site.
“The employment from a prison will be more than welcome,” said Denbigh councillor Raymond Bartley.
“The hospital site would definitely be an ideal site and should be considered if there is a prison in North Wales.”
The new prison could hold more than 2,000 prisoners – around a quarter more than the largest current facility.
Four new mini-prisons – known as houseblocks - will also be built.
The current intention is that these new places will be built at HMPs Parc in South Wales, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, The Mount in Hertfordshire and Thameside in London.
The new developments will allow the Ministry of Justice to close six smaller, older and more expensive prisons, and to close parts of three others.
The programme is expected to save £63 million a year.
“We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive,” said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
“But I never want the courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available. So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system.”
Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones has also backed plans for a new prison and said: “The case for a new prison in North Wales is compelling.
“Under the present system, prisoners are often placed many miles away from their support networks, so if we want to cut crime and reduce reoffending we must first get criminals off the street and then work to fully rehabilitate them – this means placing them in institutions close to their community.
“As the Tory-led UK Government starts its feasibility study, I would welcome more clarity and detail in order that communities can be properly consulted to avoid a ‘not in my back yard’ culture developing.”
Secretary of State for Wales and Clwyd West MP David Jones said: "A prison in North Wales would create economic opportunities and secure new jobs.
"I also know how important having a prison in North Wales would be to families and professional advisors of prisoners.”
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