Campaigners against proposals to massively expand HMP Hindley took their demands to the elected members who will ultimately say yes or no.
The group trying to prevent the building of a so-called mega-prison at HMP Hindley, now called Pies Not Prisons, demonstrated outside Wigan Town Hall before yesterday’s planning committee meeting.
The councillors charged with handling planning applications will ultimately have to decide whether to accept or refuse proposals yet to be submitted for the Bickershaw site by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
However, the protestors wanted the elected representatives to be in no doubt as to the scale of opposition among justice groups, political activists, trade unions and local residents.
Correspondence between Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and the Government recently revealed ministers are likely to push for the site to be transformed so the jail can hold up to 1,300 inmates.
The footprint of the site will also have to be expanded to fit the larger buildings in.
Campaigners are alarmed by several aspects of the proposals, including the risks and cost of removing asbestos from the area, possible traffic issues, noise pollution, parking problems and the visual impact of a much larger prison.
Protestors also want the cost of the prison to instead be ploughed into public services which they say will boost rehabilitation and reduce the number of people being put behind bars.
Dr David Scott, a member of Pies Not Prisons and a researcher at the Open University, said: “Local residents in Bickershaw and Hindley Green are very concerned about the idea of building a new mega prison on the site of HMP Hindley.
“There is general recognition - from Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons to the local MP - that the prison is currently unfit for purpose and should be closed.
“There are also very strong feelings that building a new mega prison in its place is a very bad idea. Instead, the £140m earmarked for the new prison would be better spent on local healthcare, education and mental health provision, combined with a reduction in the number of prison sentences in Greater Manchester.
“We need less prisoners, not more prisons.”
The Prison Officers Association (POA) has also expressed concern about the mega-prison, with staff currently facing an uncertain future and working elsewhere in the region while Hindley is rebuilt.