Coltishall jail plan confirmed

The former airbase at RAF Coltishall will be turned into a Category C prison, the government confirmed today.If planning permission is granted in the coming months the plan appears to be unavoidable after justice minister Jack Straw stood up in the House of Commons at lunchtime and made the announcement.

The former airbase at RAF Coltishall will be turned into a Category C prison, the government confirmed today.

If planning permission is granted in the coming months the plan appears to be unavoidable after justice minister Jack Straw stood up in the House of Commons at lunchtime and made the announcement.

Mr Straw was speaking about a national prisons review written by Lord Carter and the RAF Coltishall element was just one part of his statement. The review will see an extra £1.2bn spent and capacity increased to 96,000 places by 2014.

The very real possibility of a prison being built on the site was revealed last week, and that news prompted an angry reaction from the local community, tempered only slightly by the idea that the prison would bring jobs and investment to the area.


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Residents living nearby had been told the possibility of a prison on the site had been ruled out many months ago - because of poor transport links and the lack of any pressing need in Norfolk.

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson said today: “If this goes ahead, and it is clearly something the local communities do not want, it is vital that people are given guarantees about security and they are given confidence in the plan.

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“There is also a very great need for some clarity on various issues - exactly what a Category C prison is, how much of the land at the base it will use and what happens to the rest of that land.”

People who have recently bought former airmen's houses close to the base are among those who have previously demonstrated their anger at the move.

Jane Algar, who bought a three-bed semi with husband Richard, said: “A prison would be a disaster. We don't want it.”

Steve Cooper, landlord of the nearby Skeyton Goat and whose son is also another home-buyer, said a prison would be even worse than an immigration centre.

John Harding, chairman of Coltishall Parish Council, said it was important not to adopt a “not in my backyard” mentality.

He said: “If we can be reassured it is safe, we should not oppose it out of hand.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb was worried that the government was “grasping at straws in an attempt at crisis management” and had not thought it through.

“What worries me is that these plans may not be properly thought through. It could result in Norfolk bearing the brunt of the nation's problems because it is the easiest option not because it is the most suitable location,” he added.

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