South West Wales

New prison in Port Talbot announced by Ministry of Justice

Prison guard Image copyright Getty Images

Plans for a new prison to be built in Port Talbot have been unveiled by the Ministry of Justice.

BBC Wales understands it will be a Category C prison for up to 1,600 prisoners, although that has not been confirmed by the MoJ.

The proposed site is undeveloped land north west of the former Panasonic factory in Baglan, alongside the M4.

Aberavon AM David Rees welcomed the jobs involved but urged caution about the implications for local communities.

He said: "Local businesses have a chance to grow from this. Maybe when visitors come we'll have opportunities for cafes and taxis to benefit. It's an opportunity we cannot afford to miss and those jobs are important to us.

"We also need to make sure the site is the appropriate site - that the safety of the communities around the site is catered for and that communities feel comfortable with what is being built."

Mr Rees added: "We need to speak to communities and I've written to the ministry to ask that a full consultation takes place - they've told me there will be and that will be a chance for people to give their views on this development."

Neath Port Talbot council's chief executive, Steven Phillips said: "The council hasn't received any planning application from the Ministry of Justice but any application it receives will be dealt with in the normal way, which will include a full consultation with the local community."

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Media captionAberavon AM David Rees said the move would bring jobs to the area.

A new prison will also be built at Full Sutton, in Yorkshire, with existing sites in Hindley, Wigan, and Rochester, Kent, redeveloped.

It is part of the UK government's commitment to creating up to 10,000 modern prison places by 2020, backed by £1.3bn to transform the estate.

Last month HMP Berwyn opened in Wrexham - the UK's biggest prison.

Analysis by BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

There is the possibility - and it's just speculation at the moment - that [the opening of a prison in Port Talbot] might enable the government to close down Swansea Prison, which is an older prison, and which has a far smaller number of inmates.

And it does beg the question: if you're going to have a prison holding 1,600 inmates at Port Talbot and you have got the prisons at Swansea, Parc Prison and Cardiff are you going to need all those institutions? It just raises the question, certainly in my mind, as to whether the government is looking at possibly closing a prison in Wales - it could be Swansea.

Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: "We cannot hope to reduce re-offending until we build prisons that are places of reform where hard-work and self-improvement flourish.

"Outdated prisons, with dark corridors and cramped conditions, will not help offenders turn their backs on crime - nor do they provide our professional and dedicated prison officers with the right tools or environment to do their job effectively."

She added: "This significant building programme will not only help create a modern prison estate where whole-scale reform can truly take root, but will also provide a thriving, economic lifeline for the local community - creating hundreds of jobs for local people and maximising opportunities for businesses."

Later, in a written statement, Ms Truss said the MoJ was getting valuations of old prisons and announcements on any closures would be made later this year.

'In creating a modern prison estate, old and inefficient prisons will be closed and replaced by the new accommodation," she said.

'Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said he was "delighted" about the decision, saying Wales was "leading the way" in providing facilities "designed with rehabilitation in mind" alongside the "traditional security which the public rightly expects".

However, Plaid Cymru reiterated previous calls for the devolution of issues relating to Welsh prisoners and raised questions about the impact on safety and services for the local area.

Party economy spokesman Adam Price said: "Turning Wales into a vast super-prison for the English justice system is not the economic future we need or deserve.

"We're better than this."

The new prison will be sited on Welsh Government land.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We will work with Ministry of Justice, local companies and the community to maximise the opportunities this will bring to Baglan and the wider south Wales area in terms of employment during the construction phase and at the prison once open."

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