Councillors are being urged to reject controversial plans to expand Hindley Prison as trade unionists join the ranks opposing the idea. A public meeting has been arranged for later this month in Bickershaw to give those living closest to the prison the chance to have their say.
The trades council has joined the likes of prisons academic and researcher Dr David Scott and joint enterprise campaign group Jengba in expressing concern at the proposal.
However, both the council and senior cabinet members have stressed it will be for the planning committee to accept or reject the transformation of the site based on the merits of the application when it is submitted.
Wigan Trades Council delegate Barry Conway said: “Prisons are places with so many social problems and while we are not against services’ being used for prisoners, resources are scarce and the community and the council is not being given what it needs.
“We’ve got a prison with high rates of suicide, injury and drug-taking and that means the ability of the prison service to rehabilitate prisoners and stop recidivism is lower. Building a bigger prison will only make the matter worse.
“We are calling on the council to refuse planning permission and challenge the idea that it has to deliver austerity on behalf of the Government.”
The trades council has written an open letter to the borough’s elected representatives urging them to attend the June 29 meeting at Bickershaw Labour Club and also to see if Dr Scott can address the council on the issue.
He has accused ministers of a cost-cutting exercise and says it is unlikely, given Government plans to provide more prison places, that the redeveloped jails like Hindley will not be along the lines of recently-opened mega-prison HMP Berwyn in Wales.
Wigan Council leader Lord Smith said: “Like any planning application this has got to be judged in a quasi-legal way. There are criteria we have to consider when the application comes in and of course people can object.
“We must bear in mind that this is not a new development, it is an extension of one that is already there.
“The efficacy of prison policy is for someone else to discuss. We need to respond properly to the planning application at the appropriate time.”
Karl Battersby, Wigan Council’s director for economy and environment, added: “When we receive the planning application it will be subject to full public consultation, and all views will be taken into consideration before a decision is made.”