Ministry of Justice
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Views sought on site for new prison

Residents were invited to air their views on a proposed new prison on the site of the former Runwell hospital by Justice Minister Maria Eagle yesterday.

Launching the Ministry of Justice's public pre-application consultation into the planned prison-building scheme, the Minister said the proposed site at Runwell would create 800 new jobs and generate approximately £17.7 million in annual revenue for the local economy if it gets the go-ahead.

News of the consultation comes after Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw announced plans in April to open two new 1,500 place prisons - one on the site of the former Runwell Secure Psychiatric hospital in Essex and one at Beam Park West, Dagenham.

Justice Minister Maria Eagle MP said:

'This major new prison would make a major contribution to the community in and around Runwell – both in terms of jobs and as a boost to the economy.

'This is the first opportunity for residents around the proposed Runwell prison site to find out about our plans in more detail and have their views heard.

'The Ministry of Justice will be seeking outline planning permission for the new prison soon and we want to hear local views and discuss upcoming issues around the proposed development.'

The public are to be consulted on the proposals in three ways:

  • a leaflet drop to 10,000 houses in the area outlining the proposals
  • two public exhibitions – firstly at Runwell hospital Sports and Social Club from Tuesday 3 November to Thursday 5 November, then at Christ Church in Wickford on  Saturday  November
  • two public meetings – at Runwell Village Hall on Thursday 12th November, and at Wickford Community Centre on Wednesday 18 November.

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 best meet 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.

Once the consultation period has finished, it is intended that the outline planning application will be submitted to Chelmsford Borough Council in January 2010.

Notes to editors

  1. Text and pictures from the consultation materials (leaflets and public exhibition boards) are available on request
  2. Public Exhibitions:
    • Runwell hospital Sports and Social Club
    • Runwell hospital, The Chase, Runwell, Essex SS11 7QA
      • Tuesday 3 November, 1.30pm - 8.00pm
      • Wednesday 4 November, 10.00am - 8.00pm,
      • Thursday 5 November,10.00am - 2.00pm
    • Wickford, Christ Church, SS12 9AT (next to Somerfield)
      • Saturday 7 November / 10.00am - 4.00pm
  3. Public Meetings:
    • Runwell Village Hall, Church End Lane, Runwell Essex SS11 7JE
      • Thursday 12 November, 7.00pm - 8.30pm,
        Exhibition available from 6.30 - 7.00pm
    • Wickford Community Centre, Market Road, Wickford SS12 0AG
      • Wednesday 18 November, 7.00pm - 8.30pm
        Exhibition available from 6.30pm - 7.00pm


  4. The Ministry of Justice is currently agreeing the purchase of the site from its owners, the Homes and Communities Agency.
  5. Runwell will take a mixture of both category B and category C prisoners (see Additional information on the proposals to build a new prison in Runwell, Essex for prisoner category definitions)
  6. An indicative design for the new prison will form part of the exhibition - it will consist of new buildings of a maximum three storeys in height above existing ground level. There will be a secure perimeter, a new access route designed to minimise the impact of traffic and to preserve important trees, as well as onsite parking.
  7. For further information about the public exhibitions or meetings please contact the Ministry of Justice on email:
  8. Phone: 020 7217 5425. The deadline for your pre-application comments is 30 November 2009.

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