The sale of former prisons in west and south England is agreed

Gloucester Prison
Image caption The transformation of Gloucester Prison will be a "daunting task", experts say

The sale of four former prison sites has been agreed, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed.

The sites at of Shepton Mallet, Gloucester, Portsmouth and Dorchester will be sold to City and Country.

The MoJ said the firm was working on "mixed used schemes", with assisted living units alongside retail and "social amenity" areas.

The sale of the four sites will be completed in February. The prisons closed as part of government cutbacks.

The price of the sale has not yet been disclosed.

Helen Moore, from London-based City and Country said they had bought "a very, very interesting portfolio of listed buildings".

Image caption HMP Shepton Mallet was the oldest working prison in England

She said a community consultation about the next steps for the four building would begin in the new year.

"That will be the same for each of the sites that we've acquired across the region."

Hugh Worsnip, from Gloucester Civic Trust, said he was "encouraged" by the "attitude" from City and Country.

But he said transforming Gloucester Prison, of which large parts are made up of listed buildings, would be a "daunting task".

"They will also have a great problem of disposing of over 100 bodies that are buried within the grounds of the prison," he said.

"We wouldn't want the whole thing into a hotel but mixed use and above all we want imagination and design flair to deal with this very difficult site."

Since Gloucester Prison was closed in March 2013, more than £230,000 has been spent on security at the building.

A further £23,000 was spent on maintenance while £17,000 was spent on electricity.

Image copyright Nigel Mykura
Image caption Dorchester Prison closed in December 2013
Image caption Kingston Prison in Portsmouth closed in March 2013

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