Ministers to visit under-threat prison

Chris Grayling will visit HMP Wellingborough
Chris Grayling will visit HMP Wellingborough
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The Secretary of State for Justice has agreed to visit HMP Wellingborough following a campaign against its closure.

Chris Grayling and Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright agreed to visit the jail within the next few weeks after a meeting with town MP Peter Bone.

Mr Wright said he wanted to see the state of the prison for himself in order to inspect whether the estimated £50m is needed to refurbish the older parts of the prison.

While the new Secretary of State said he was unable to stop the transfer of prisoners out of Wellingborough as the process is too far along its course, he agreed that the Wellingborough prison site had not been ruled out for future use in the prison estate.

Mr Bone said: “I made it clear to the ministers that Wellingborough was the third cheapest prison to run, and should not be closed down on cost grounds. There was clearly uncertainty over the £50m needed to refurbish the prison. Obviously, I was disappointed that the transfer of prisoners will continue, but understood the Secretary of State’s position. However, I was delighted that they had not ruled out some future use of Wellingborough prison in the prison estate.”

Lynne Holcombe, who has led the campaign against the closure, said: “I am delighted because it’s a positive step in the right direction, but it seems like it’s come too late.”

Cllr Paul Bell, leader of Wellingborough Council, said: “We’re delighted that our MP has secured agreement from the Secretary of State to visit Wellingborough Prison. This is a big step, and has been hard won thanks to the commitment of everyone involved in the campaign. We now have the opportunity to demonstrate the validity of our campaign in person, and show exactly why the prison shouldn’t be closed and what an effect it would have on our borough if it was.”