Village anger at prison plan

A new wave of anger and confusion swept through the villages around the former RAF Coltishall airbase as the news filtered through that a prison could be built on the site.

A new wave of anger and confusion swept through the villages around the former RAF Coltishall airbase as the news filtered through that a prison could be built on the site.

As reported in the EDP, government officials are at an advanced stage of drawing up plans to build a prison on part of the disused base, having apparently scrapped plans to build an immigration centre.

Continued uncertainty has been raised by some people as the most important element of the RAF Coltishall situation, but yesterday the local focus was on the possibility of a category B or C jail being built.

“We don't want it,” said Jane Algar, who earlier this year bought one of the former Ministry of Defence houses next to the base, a three bed semi which she shares with husband Richard.

“The community being built here is up and coming, quite close knit and includes a lot of young people with children or who are planning on starting families. We introduce ourselves to all the new ones, it's a good bunch of people, we look out for each other and it's a very safe place. A prison would be a disaster.”

Steve Cooper, landlord of the nearby Skeyton Goat, said a prison would be even worse than an immigration centre.

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“I think the criminal element would be more of a concern than asylum seekers. A known criminal is more likely to come down and try to hot-wire my vehicle and nick it.

“A prison would not be good for anyone, people who live here or people who run businesses like me.

“The problem is the government will do what they want. We can ruffle feathers, kick the dust, but once the government make their decision it will happen, they will whitewash local opinion. They just do what they bloody like.”

Mr Cooper's son Lee is another recent ex-MoD home buyer with his partner Lisa Alexander and their toddler daughter Mia.

“Going from an immigration centre to a prison is as bad if not worse. I am also worried about a prison devaluing our homes.”

Mother-of-two Emma Jordan, who has recently moved into one of the former officers' houses next to the base, was more sanguine about the prison plan.

“It's obviously not ideal and I would prefer it was not put there, we would much rather be on the doorstep of the proposed eco-town than a prison.

“And I would be concerned about the stigma attached to living next door to a prison having an effect on the future sales of houses here.

“But from a security point of view if you think it through you would expect it to be secure and if someone escapes from a prison they aren't going to hang about, they will be off and away.”

County councillor for the Hoveton and Stalham area Mick Wright, who lives at Scottow, said: “So many people wasted so much time trying to do this right and the government have messed it about so badly.

“They put a spanner in the works a year ago and now every now and then they are giving that spanner a twist.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said it was vital that a rational, early decision was made but he was pessimistic about the likelihood of that happening.

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