Ground was broken on the site of Wellingborough’s new mega prison this afternoon as Justice Secretary Robert Buckland took the spade to do the honours.
Local dignitaries gathered at the official ground- breaking ceremony of the £235m prison, which has been called a blueprint for the future generation of prisons.
Bars will be replaced with toughened glass walls in the category C prison which will house up to 1,680 inmates. There will be several accommodation blocks with courtyard areas and central spaces for vocational training and also faith spaces.
Giving a speech the Justice Secretary said the Wellingborough build marked a turning point in the prison system.
He said: “What we are going to see here in Wellingborough is accommodation that is modern, efficient and humane will house a new generation of prisoner that will encourage rehabilitation more effectively than ever before.”
The prison, which is being built by Kier, is on the site of the town’s former prison which was shut down in 2012 because of its poor condition.
Work officially began on site in May and it is anticipated that the topping-out ceremony will be in spring next year with the opening in 2021.
The Justice Secretary, who has been in the job since July, gave a friendly warning to Kier that the build must be delivered on time.
He said: “We are going to be able to show that we can do it efficiently, on time and on budget. This is an exaltation to make sure it happens.”
Managing director of the Kier Group James Hindes said there was a hive of activity happening off-site with thousands of doors and panels being manufactured elsewhere, which will then be transported and put in place.
He also said local firms were being used and the firm was committed to creating a positive legacy for Wellingborough.
When opened the prison will also provide hundreds of jobs.
Running in conjunction with the prison is a new construction and skills centre, financed by the Department for Education’s Construction Skills fund and led by Northamptonshire county Council (NCC) .
Senior project manager at NCC Sarah Ellwood is co-ordinating the scheme and said people could register an interest for the programme. This will deliver free bite-size training courses which are available to anyone currently not working in the construction sector. As part of the course there will be live experience on construction sites across the county.
Since work started this summer Kier has been disrupted on two occasions by anti-prison expansion campaigners. They say the hundreds of millions being spent as part of the Government’s expansion programme would be better spent on investment in community services.