Posted: Wed 10th Apr 2024

Welsh Prison HMP Prescoed Approved for Expansion Beyond 300 Inmates /

A WELSH prison will be expanded to take its capacity beyond 300 inmates after plans for new cells were approved. 
HMP Prescoed, which is a Category D open prison that houses men and young offenders, has been given planning permission for 80 ‘Rapid Deployment Cells’ within its grounds near Usk. 
It also has permission to retain 40 additional Covid isolation cells put in place at the start of the pandemic, in April 2020, without planning permission. 
The prison’s current capacity is 250 but will only increase to 330, as the 80 ‘Rapid Deployment Cells’, are replacing 40 beds in what was known as the Lester Unit that was demolished in 2022 after it failed a fire safety inspection following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. 
Neighbours and a local council have expressed concern at the increasing capacity of the jail and the impact on the narrow, country lanes as prisoners travel daily, in a fleet of minibuses, to work as far as Cardiff, Newport and Cwmbran. 
Due to the increased capacity 11 new members of staff will be employed, with seven on duty at any one time. 
Monmouthshire County Council’s planning department said in a report most inmates still work at the prison’s Cilwrgi Farm which is around half a mile from its main building. Prescoed is a satellite site to HMP Usk and was developed since the first building was built during the Second World War. 
The site now houses a number of buildings and all of the 120 new cells will be portable or modular buildings. 
The ‘Rapid Deployment Cells’ will be in two, two-storey blocks and around six metres tall. 
They will include cells, two kitchens, two association rooms, two laundries, store rooms, an office, WC and kitchenette and phone room. 
The Covid isolation units are single storey and 2.8m high and are placed in two locations in blocks of three with the new cells to be placed between them.  
The Coed-y-Paen Residents Association said around 100, or 40 per cent of the current inmates, “have to be ferried to their places of employment” through their village which is around a mile from the prison.
It said: “This results in a significant number of minibuses travelling to and fro through our village. There also regular convoys of prison staff travelling through our village at shift change-over times. There is also the volume of traffic generated on prisoner visiting times. All of these traffic movements will increase when the prison houses an extra 80 inmates, on roads which are not suitable.” 
It said it was concerned at the increase in prisoners: “Many of us recall when the prison housed fewer than 200 inmates, and this latest proposal will see the population climbing towards 350. It calls into question whether this rural site is really a suitable location for such a large establishment.” 
Llangybi Community Council said the prison is on its boundary but was only aware of the proposals due to a meeting held with the residents association and it wanted to support the comments made. 
A local resident also objected due to the increase in traffic and the response of the council’s highways department which described the impact as “negligible”. 
The report, for the council’s delegated panel which approved the application, said a study for the prison found there would be no additional traffic from the Covid units. It said the only impact are additional staff parking, which it said there is sufficient space to accommodate, while an additional visitors’ day will mitigate extra visitors. 
Permission has also been given for a replacement sewage treatment plant works while a licence will be required from Natural Resources Wales as work will impact on bats, which are a protected species. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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