The state announced plans for a new mega-prison in Full Sutton in East Yorkshire in March 201711. The planning application was finally submitted in May 2017 and led to a huge community response from concerned locals and a newly formed anti-prison group. The full planning documentation can be found at https://newplanningaccess.eastriding.gov.uk. The planning reference number is 17/01494/STOUT.
Despite a large number of objections, including a petition from the village with over 150 signatures, the prison gained planning consent in July 2017.
The prison was originally designed for 1,017 prisoners, covering a massive 38,217 square metres. In November 2018, new plans were revealed supersizing the prison for now more than 1,440 prisoners. The Ministry of Justice also told residents at a public meeting that construction would not begin until early 2020. It is one of the only prisons out of the six proposed to be built on a greenfield site without demolishing an existing prison. However, it is right next to HMP Full Sutton, a category A and B prison that also houses a Close Supervision Centre. This is one of the highest security and most repressive prison units within the country, where prisoners are held in solitary confinement in an extremely controlled environment.
The new prison would be category C, a ‘training prison’ with more space to exploit prisoners in workshops within the prison. The projected build cost is £91m.
Local people hired a planning consultant to help prepare objections to the prison. Reported in the local media, resident Maddy Ruff, 53, who has lived in the village for 13 years said: “It’s going to absolutely ruin our small village.” Local concerns are mostly about disruption: not only the building process but also the ongoing pressures the prison will create in terms of traffic and prison visitors.
A wide variety of concerns were raised at the planning stages of the project and still remain unanswered. The site has a worrying history of contamination. Planning documents reveal that the site used to be a storage facility for nuclear weapons. It has been ranked as “A1”, a high priority for inspection because of the radiological contamination on the site. However only an inadequate Phase 1 contamination land study, basically just a desktop study, has been carried out. A Freedom of Information Request submitted by Corporate Watch in May 2018 proved no formal decontamination has ever taken place. The site’s radiological risk would not be tolerated for housing developments, but prisoners are effectively treated as less than human.
The report also noted risks of unexploded ordnances, but no detailed risk assessment has been undertaken. This makes the site high risk for construction workers as well as prisoners held at the site.
Ramboll Environ, who completed the report, state the presence of potentially contaminative materials could pose a risk to groundwater and controlled waters. The Ministry of Justice in their application say they are planning to discharge surface water into the nearby tributary of the River Derwent. Yorkshire Water in their letter state that the public sewer network does not have capacity. Building a new prison for over 1,440 prisoners is basically like building a new village.
A full environmental impact assessment has not been completed for the site, despite projects of a much smaller nature being requested to do so by planning departments. The social and economic impact assessment has been called ‘laughable’ by campaigners. They also raised the point that planning permission was granted by a council that is 97.9% white. It is clear that the prison will harm, strain and seriously impact local services.
Why Full Sutton?
The new mega-prisons were designed to be evenly geographically spread. This site may have appeared as one of the most appealing in the North East because it already has a large prison next door. Like other locations, there is already a community well-adapted to being next to a prison. HMP Full Sutton also has facilities that exploit prisoner labour for local and national companies.
Detectamet Ltd and Kite Packaging Limited both use prisoner labour at HMP Full Sutton working with One3One Solutions, the Ministry of Justice’s trading arm13. The prison also employs prisoners for bricklaying, painting and decorating, plumbing, recycling, textiles, contract services, braille transcription, catering and industrial cleaning.
It is very likely that building a new prison, complete with larger workshops, adjacent to the existing one will increase the profit margins of private companies and the state from exploiting prisoner labour.
Local people in the village organised a petition and employed a planning consultant to help generate effective objections. A county-wide group also formed. Yorkshire Campaign Against Prisons is a grassroots coalition made up of people from across Yorkshire. They have organised multiple events about the prison, as well as connecting with national prisoner support campaigns, such as the movement against indeterminate ‘IPP’ sentences.
They have produced literature criticising the new prison and the wider prison system and are actively organising to resist the prison in the coming months ahead.