Plans for 120 new beds at HMP Sudbury are set to be approved, taking the open prison’s capacity to more than 600.
Documents submitted by the Ministry of Justice detail that the Derbyshire Dales prison is close to its maximum capacity of around 580 and is in need of more beds.
Derbyshire Dales District Council is set to approve the plans for extra accommodation at the open prison at a meeting on Tuesday, February 8.
Overall, the 120-bed plans would see the prison’s capacity increase by 80 beds with some older accommodation to be demolished as part of the project.
The scheme would also include the building of a new multi-faith centre, along with 80 further parking spaces.
A document submitted with the application says: “There is an imperative need to provide new prison places across the country in modern sustainable buildings that will delivery positive outcomes and this will be partly achieved through the expansion of prison accommodation within the existing estate.”
It says the prison population is forecast to increase over the next decade, reaching “unprecedented” levels.
The document cites the Conservative manifesto from 2019 as seeking to create 10,000 more prison places, 3,500 of which would be through expansion of existing sites and 6,500 through the creation of four new prisons.
A report from Dales council officers details that the HMP Sudbury site was originally a hospital constructed for the United States Air Force.
Sudbury Parish Council has objected to the project, citing a lack of water and sewage infrastructure on the site to support more housing.
It says the housing – and associated en-suites – “will both increase the likelihood of local water shortage by increasing demand, and exacerbate the problem that already occurs when there is a regional water shortage”.
The council also says the fencing around the prison is “unfit for purpose” in some areas.
It says: “Adding to the prison population without a similar increase in provision of security around the site could lead to further incidents of anti-social behaviour and an associated danger for local residents.”
The authority also fears an increase in “illicit parcel drops”, suggesting the multi-faith centre could become a drop point.
It says: “The council is aware that illicit ‘parcel-drops’ are a problem around the prison site, and consider that local residents’ concerns about these are valid.
“The multi-faith centre is projected to be sited close to the boundary palisade fence, and the council is concerned that the area between the building and the fence could become a drop-zone for increased packages.
“Similar concerns have been raised about the DHL parcel-drop hut, and whether this could become a staging-post for illicit deliveries.”
The council’s landscape officer says the two-storey housing blocks contrast against the majority of the buildings on site, which are one storey tall, but says they would partly be replacing housing blocks which are two storeys in height.
Chesterfield Royal Hospital was consulted as part of the scheme and says the development would trigger a need for £102,000 to assist with supplying healthcare services for the additional prisoners.
Five objection letters have been submitted by nearby residents, citing privacy concerns from both the housing blocks and multi-faith centre, and also raising worries about “parcel drops” – calling the current fencing “inadequate”.
The Derbyshire Swift Conservation Project has asked that 10 “swift bricks” – bricks with a hollow chamber to allow bird nesting – are installed on the housing blocks.
Meanwhile, the National Trust has said it supports the limited expansion of the prison but is concerned about the current plans and the impact on the Sudbury Registered Historic Park and Gardens opposite the site.
Council planner, recommending approval, wrote: “The proposal expands accommodation and facilities at a long established prison site.
“Such consolidation of the facility is considered to serve an identified need which can only reasonably be met at the existing site in the countryside.
“Whilst some less than substantial harm will result to the setting of the Grade I listed Sudbury Hall and grade II* listed Vernon’s Folly, this harm is at the lower end of less than substantial harm and the public benefits of expanding the accommodation and new facilities to meet prisoner needs along with the positive contribution of the scheme to renewable energy production and biodiversity are considered to outweigh that harm.”