Fierce opposition to plans for ‘mega prison’ near Aylesbury

Planning application is set to be debated this week

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 9:50 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 10:19 am

Plans for a new ‘mega prison’ in the countryside near Aylesbury and Buckingham have been met with fierce opposition.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has submitted an outline planning application to Bucks Council for a new Category C prison in Grendon Underwood.

If approved, the new “resettlement” jail would be built next to the existing Grendon (Cat B secure) and Springhill (Cat D open) prisons, off Springhill Road – and cover up to 67,000sq m.

The proposed new prison would be close to the existing Grendon and Springhill jails

But the plans have received more than 470 objections about noise pollution, increased traffic, loss of privacy and sense of security, overlooking, loss of green space, its sheer size, affected wildlife, and the ‘destroyed quality of life’ for locals, to name a few.

Many local councils have also objected, including Edgcott Parish Council, Grendon Underwood Parish Council, East Claydon Parish Council, Steeple Claydon Parish Council, Gawcott with Lenborough Parish Council, Marsh Gibbon Parish Council, Middle Claydon Parish Council, Calvert Green Parish Council, and Charndon Parish Council, to name a few.

But the scheme is being considered in light of government targets for 10,000 extra places across four prisons in England (two in the north, two in the south) to meet population forecasts for the next 10 years.

“The proposed site satisfies many of the site search criteria and is situated in a region where substantial demand for additional prison places is expected. The site is already owned by the MoJ,’ a planning statement reads.

Further, the new jail would seek to address an “imbalance between the needs of prisoners and the types and location of prisons they are held in” to improve rehabilitation and cost effectiveness.

But a council report reveals “significant concerns” about the sustainability of the site, landscape and visual impact, harm to heritage assets (Grendon Hall, Lawn House, and Lower Farm), and loss of playing fields.

Further, the plans fail to show how it would provide a biodiversity net gain. Loss of “best and most versatile” agricultural land has also been identified.

“The proposal conflicts with a number of relevant planning policies and the benefits of this scheme are considered not to outweigh the harm which has been identified,” a council document says.

“The information provides insufficient justification for the development of this sensitive site and does not provide convincing evidence that there are no alternative locations which accommodate this development.”

There will be six new blocks for up to 1,468 prisoners, “care and separation units”, workshops, a kitchen building, and a 453-space car park. (HMP Springhill and Grendon currently hold around 500 inmates).

Football pitches and exercise areas currently serving HMP Springhill will be relocated west.

MP for Buckingham Greg Smith has also objected to the scheme.

The plans will be debated later this week. The recommendation is for refusal.