Calls for rethink over housing development plans for former Blundeston Prison site
PUBLISHED: 08:29 07 November 2014 | UPDATED: 08:29 07 November 2014
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Proposals drawn up for the sale of the former Blundeston Prison site have been criticised for only promoting a large scale housing development and failing to take local opinions in to account.
HMP Blundeston had been in the village for more than 50 years up until it closed on December 13 last year as part of a cost cutting exercise by the Ministry of Justice.
The category C prison had a capacity for 526 prisoners, a 60 bed wing for life sentence prisoners and employed more than 100 prison officers and a further 130 staff.
In a letter to justice secretary Chris Grayling, Waveney MP Peter Aldous has expressed his disappointment at the planning information document drawn up by the government’s appointed agents Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).
He has requested a meeting with Mr Grayling to outline his concerns and has called on him to instruct JLL to work with Waveney District Council to redraft the document.
Following the closure of HMP Blundeston last December, JLL has been preparing the property for marketing.
This work has included liaising with Waveney to prepare an information document to guide prospective buyers on the type of redevelopment that will be acceptable,
Mr Aldous said in his letter: “This is an extremely disappointing brief, which in its current form will not help achieve an early sale of the property for uses that will be acceptable to the local community.
“The document currently promotes a form of development which is unacceptable to the local planning authority and which is highly unlikely to obtain planning approval.”
Mr Aldous said, in the draft document, JLL had described the site as suitable for a large scale residential development of 150 to 180 homes.
However, he said that the plot was in a rural location, was not immediately adjacent to the village and Blundeston has been identified in Waveney’s local plan of being capable of only supporting a small-scale development because of a lack of local services.
He said the recommendation also did not take in to account the surrounds and the features of the site including the nearby county wildlife site, lake and the existing Lakeside Rise residential development.
Mr Aldous branded the brief “uninspiring and too narrow in focus” and said proper consideration had not been given to alternative uses or a mixed use development.
He said the existing all-weather sports pitch should be retained for community use and consideration should be given to keeping the workshops on the site, potentially for a process manufacturing business - an option that was favoured by councillors during a site visit in May.
He said the sale of the property presented an opportunity to leave a positive legacy for Blundeston and added: “If marketing proceeds with the planning information document in its current form, there is a danger that this opportunity will be lost.”
A JLL spokesman said: “JLL was instructed by the Ministry of Justice to sell the former HM Prison Blundeston site. The Ministry of Justice and its agents, JLL, will continue to work closely with a number of organisations including the local planning authority when considering the future use of the site.”
Waveney declined to comment.