Jobs hope spring from new prison plans

Norfolk's newest prison is set to unlock scores of job opportunities for local people, and trade for local businesses.But the fate of the rest of the former RAF Coltishall base around it is in limbo for another year, until the jail fully opens.

Norfolk's newest prison is set to unlock scores of job opportunities for local people, and trade for local businesses.

But the fate of the rest of the former RAF Coltishall base around it is in limbo for another year, until the jail fully opens.

Site owner, the Ministry of Justice, is waiting to see if any fine tuning needs to be done to the new prison, in converted H-block barracks, which is due to be fully operational next March before selling off the rest of the airfield, it emerged yesterday.

A task group, initially set up to find new uses for the base when it closed more than two years ago, fell dormant when the Battle of Britain station became earmarked for a prison and a possible eco town.


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Now the prison is under construction and the eco town spotlight shifted to Rackheath the group has revived, and was given an update by all the key people involved.

New chairman Clive Stockton said: 'The prison will bring considerable economic benefit to the area, but we need to maximise it by looking at the rest of the site, which the MoJ still wants to sell off for a range of uses including light industrial and storage.'

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Recruiting for prison jobs would start next month, with up to half the 500 prisoners due to arrive in November, and the rest by next March. Half of the 390-strong staff was needed for the initial opening, and there were plans for a jobs fair at Wroxham.

The North Norfolk Business Forum was also getting involved, to help both with recruitment and providing a list of local businesses which could provide services, materials and produce.

Mr Stockton said local concerns about transport problems for prison visitors would see buses laid on to Norwich's rail and bus station, and there were also assurances that extra funding would be provided to meet the prison's health service demands.

The longer term future for the rest of the base would have to wait for a year, until the MoJ was happy with the security and access arrangements. But Task Group officials would continue looking at a master plan.

Mr Stockton said the lost impetus from the initial efforts to find uses for the base were regrettable, particularly due to the fall in confidence and investment money sources in the interim.

The group would have to content itself with a 'watching brief' for the coming months, but in the meantime it would also help with ongoing issues such as establishing the name of the Badersfield community springing up in the housing estates that served the base - where owners Annington Homes have sold 146 of the 232 houses, and currently have 50 on the market.

The Task Group includes MPs, the defence and justice ministries, council officials and members from county, district and parishes, Jobcentre staff, community and action groups, and churches. It next meets on June 26.

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