ISG to build £300m Bucks prison approved by Gove  

ISG is set to build a £300m Buckinghamshire prison approved by housing secretary Michael Gove, Construction News can reveal.

Gove rubber-stamped plans for a new 1,468-capacity Category C prison at HMP Grendon on Tuesday (30 January), following a recommendation from a planning inspector. Buckinghamshire Council had refused the plans, but its decision was appealed by the Ministry of Justice.

ISG is now expected to start working on the site later this year or early next year, after being allocated the build as part of the £1bn Alliance 4 New Prisons programme, which has seen four contractors work together to develop standardised designs for four new prisons.

The 67,000 square metre prison complex will be made up of six four-storey house blocks as well as other amenity buildings. The complex will be in the village of Grendon Underwood, alongside the existing Category D Grendon Prison and Spring Hill Prison.

CN understands the construction of the prison is set to cost at least £300m.

Kier, Wates, ISG and Laing O’Rourke were appointed to the Alliance 4 New Prisons programme in 2021 and are each set to build one of the four new prisons, which will provide 18,000 new prison places combined.

Kier started building the first of the four prisons, a £400m facility at Full Sutton in East Yorkshire, early last year.

Buckinghamshire Council rejected plans for a new prison complex at HMP Grendon in 2022 for reasons including the impact on bats and black-hairstreak butterflies.

At a planning inquiry held in January 2023, the council doubled down on its objection, saying the prison’s “layout, scale, massing and light pollution” would have an adverse impact on the local countryside.

It also said the prison complex would be reliant on the use of private vehicles, contrary to official policy; result in the loss of a section of parkland; negatively impact two nearby Grade II-listed buildings; and may result in inferior provision for sport at the prison, due to the loss of a playing field.

Planning inspector Lesley Coffey acknowledged that the prison development would harm the setting of the listed buildings as well as “the character and appearance of the landscape” more generally.

However, she added that this harm would be outweighed by the contribution towards prison spaces nationally, the economic benefits of the development and the social benefits of a better-quality prison that will allow some existing prisoners to be closer to their families.

Gove agreed with the planning inspector and approved the scheme.

Peter Strachan, Buckinghamshire Council’s cabinet member for planning and regeneration, said the decision was “desperately disappointing” and “another kick in the teeth for local people already blighted by HS2 and East West Rail construction works”.

He added: “We remain adamant that this is the wrong location for this facility. This is a rural location, which takes in a historic landscape, and it will not be easy for families to access the facility to visit inmates.

“The combined effects on the local area in terms of sustainability, heritage and the environment would have an overriding negative impact.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “[This] decision is critical to delivering the 20,000 extra places we need to keep dangerous offenders off the streets and protect the public.

“Our plans will boost the local economy with hundreds of new jobs and we will work closely with the community to ensure they reap the benefits from the new development.”

ISG declined to comment.

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