Protesters celebrate as plan for mega prison near Aylesbury thrown out
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Buckinghamshire Council has rejected the Ministry of Justice’s planning application to build a 'mega prison' near Aylesbury.
The Strategic Sites Committee met this afternoon, Thursday, to discuss the plan, which had attracted hundreds of objections from local residents and parish councils.
The application to build a new Category C prison adjacent to the existing HMP Grendon and HMP Springhill proposed creating what would have been one of the largest prison complexes in Europe on green field land and additional agricultural land near Grendon Underwood.
Bucks Council’s planning officer's report cited that that the MoJ’s proposal conflicted with local planning policies and that there was “a lack of clear and convincing justification for the development of the site”.
The report stated there were “significant concerns regarding the sustainability of the site, the landscape character, visual impacts, (with a development that is industrial in proportions appearing stark and at odds with the rural landscape), harm to designated and non-designated heritage assets and the loss of playing fields”.
Buckingham MP Greg Smith, who has been working with local councillors and residents for the last year to fight the proposals, spoke against the plan in the meeting.
Following the meeting, he said: “The MoJ’s application was speculative and totally inappropriate, with no consideration of the rural area.
"The site is surrounded by small settlements and served by an inadequate network of rural and unclassified roads that are already under pressure from existing approvals and approved growth in Aylesbury and Bicester.
"It is my belief that brownfield sites should be considered as a priority for this type of building work, rather than causing the loss of rural green spaces.
“This victory is an important one - together we have convinced planning officers to recommend refusal and the Strategic Sites Committee to actually refuse the application.
"But it is not the end of the road - the next step of the battle is to ensure the Ministry of Justice understands the strength of feeling locally and that their application has failed to meet key planning policy tests.
"I will be taking the case to the Secretary of State for Justice, demanding he does not appeal this decision and leaves Buckinghamshire alone.”
Grendon Underwood ward councillor Angela Macpherson, who is also the deputy leader of Buckinghamshire Councilr, added: “The prison development would have devastated the local landscape.
"We already have too much traffic in this rural area and even more would make road conditions dangerous locally.
"This lovely country area is just the wrong place for such a big development.
"I want to thank local residents for working so hard to oppose this application by putting forward such a cogent argument as to why the prison extension must not be allowed at Grendon Underwood.”
A spokesperson for Grendon Underwood and Edgcott Parish Councils, Paul Jackman, said: “There has been huge opposition against this planning application locally and I would like to say thank you to each individual and organisation who took the time to review the application and submit their objections.
"In particular, I would also to thank Councillors Macpherson, Mahon and Rand who requested that the application be referred to committee on the grounds of transport and cumulative impact, location, design, flooding, landscape, biodiversity, heritage and archaeology, impact on public services and public safety.”