Expansion plans for HMP Highpoint would see the prison's population increase by more than 50% if approved
The number of offenders in HMP Highpoint could rise by more than half if a proposed expansion gets the go ahead.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has submitted a full planning application to West Suffolk Council to build three four-storey accommodation blocks, enough to provide up to 741 more cells at the prison in Stradishall, near Haverhill and Newmarket, which has a population of 1,259, according to the latest figures taken from www.gov.uk.
The category C prison was opened in 1977, having been built by the prisoners themselves.
The plans also include an extension to the existing gatehouse, a new property store, new weight room and multi-purpose cross-fit exercise area extension to gym, a new health care unit, new education and vocational workshop block ((containing a multi-faith space), a new kitchen capable of serving 2,100 people, a new commercial workshop block and pharmacy extension and three multi-use games areas with a running track and a main property store.
The education workshop would be two storeys but all other extensions or new buildings would be one storey high.
All will be built on a 24 hectare area of land at Highpoint South, some on unused land and some within existing buildings on the site.
It is also proposed to build two new car parks containing 170 parking spaces and linked to the main prison by an existing pedestrian footpath
This element has met with objections from a number of residents on Chestnut Walk and one in Ash Close who feel it will be ‘detrimental’ to their quality of life.
The planning statement issued by the MOJ agents Cushman and Wakefield said the plans had been submitted in line with a recent announcement by the Government to invest £3.8 billion in providing 20,000 additional prison places by the mid 2020s.
The statement added: “As part of this programme a need has been identified to provide additional accommodation at Category C prisons. HMP Highpoint was identified as a prison which required additional accommodation.”
Nick Clarke, West Suffolk Councillor for Clare, Hundon and Kedington (the ward in which the prison sits), said he had some concerns about the effects on the residents of the housing estate next to the prison and the roads, some of which were in a poor state.
Writing on his blog, Cllr Clarke added: “In principle, an enlarged prison would provide for more employment and give an opportunity for local businesses. But there are things to think
“Building or extending prisons is not an activity that happens very often so we must think differently to ensure we get the very best facility with the right amount of local support.
“My experience of the Ministry of Justice is that it is a monolith with old-fashioned practices and based on the constraints of the Ministry of Defence.”
Matt Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk, echoed some elements of Cllr Clarke’s comments, saying: “I support HMP Highpoint’s expansion if – and only if – the surrounding roads that are in disrepair receive some much needed attention and are then maintained properly.
“Without the introduction of good infrastructure there can be no expansion.”