Ministry of Justice
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Major milestone for new prison plan

Plans for a new prison on the site of the former Runwell Hospital have been submitted to Chelmsford Borough Council by the Ministry of Justice today.

The proposed 1,500-place prison at Runwell should create more than 800 new jobs and generate approximately £17.1 million in annual revenue for the local economy if it gets the go-ahead. The submission of the outline planning application comes after a public consultation into the prison-building proposals for the Runwell site.

Residents in Wickford and Runwell were invited to a series of public meetings and exhibitions in November 2009 to submit their views on the proposed prison. Those views were fed into the outline application submitted by the Ministry of Justice.

The outline application comes after Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, announced proposals last April to secure sites for two new 1,500 place prisons – including one on the site of the former Runwell Secure Psychiatric Hospital in Essex.

Justice Minister Maria Eagle said:

'This represents a significant milestone in the planning for a new prison at Runwell.

'We believe a major development like a prison at Runwell would boost the economy and provide jobs for local people.

'But of equal importance is the fact this is another opportunity for residents near the proposed prison to have their views heard – not only by the Ministry of Justice, but by the planning authority who will have the final say on this application.'

Now the outline application has been submitted, once the council has validated it, the application and supporting documents will be made available for the public to see at the Chelmsford Borough Council  website, and the Ministry of Justice will provide a link to this information on their website.

There is a statutory 16-week determination period, during which, Chelmsford Borough Council will consult residents and other interested parties on the prison proposal. At this time anyone who wishes to do so will have the opportunity to make their views about the proposals known in writing to the local planning authority.

Runwell was chosen because South East England has a large shortfall of prison places and needs new prisons, preferably with one in the Essex area. After an extensive search, Runwell was found to be the best site in the area which was available and deliverable, and met the ministry's range of requirements including size, shape, site conditions and accessibility.

The prison will be run by a private sector company. Currently there are 11 private prisons in England and Wales. Independent assessments have confirmed that private sector prisons provide good security, high regime standards and modern conditions.

It will also be subject to regular inspections by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons and will be overseen by an Independent Monitoring Board drawn from the local community. A Ministry of Justice controller will be placed at the prison to make sure it is running according to the agreed contract.

Notes to editors

  1. A link to the outline planning application for this site will be available once Chelmsford Borough Council has validated the document.
  2. Runwell will take a mixture of both Category B and Category C prisoners. For definitions of what the different categories mean see additional information on the proposals to build a new prison in Runwell, Essex
  3. For further information please contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536.

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