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Former Reading jail to be sold in government u-turn

Reading Prison is to be sold to make way for new housing

It's been empty for two years, but today, in a government u-turn, it's finally been confirmed that Reading Prison is to be sold.

The Grade two listed building - has stood in the centre of the town - for almost 170 years - housing thousands of prisoners - most famously - Oscar Wilde. But back in December 2013 it was shut - as part of the Governments plan - to modernise the prison system.

Now under new proposals, Victorian jails are to be sold to make way for new housing.

The interviewees featured in Mel Bloor's report are: Cllr Tony Page from Reading Borough Council; George Osborne MP Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East.

Council to protect former prison site made famous by Oscar Wilde

A key planning document protecting the heritage and history of the former Reading Prison site is set to be adopted by Reading Borough Council this week.

A Grade II listed building, Reading Prison - famous for Oscar Wilde’s poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” - was shut down by the Government in December 2013. Although the Ministry of Justice has indicated it intends to sell the site, 16 months on the historic building sits empty with no indication on progress.

This week, Reading Borough Council is moving to adopt what is known as an Outline Development Framework. This important document provides a framework to help shape any potential future use and development of the prison site. The proposed adoption of the framework follows a public consultation exercise where members of the public were invited to comment on a draft.

The Outline Development Framework for Reading Prison is set to be adopted at a meeting of the Council’s Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee on Thursday.

“More than 16 months after the Reading Prison was abruptly shut down by Government, this historic building remains empty with nothing definitive from the MoJ on progress. The Council is nevertheless moving to protect the history and heritage of what is a key site for Reading."

– Tony Page, Lead Member for Strategic Environment for Reading Borough Council


Shaping the future of the Reading Prison site

Reading Borough Council is moving to protect the heritage and history of the former Reading Prison site with the publication of a key planning document.

The was closed by the Government in December 2013. Now empty, the Ministry of Justice intends to sell the site.

The forthcoming sale has prompted the council to publish what is known as an Outline Development Framework.

The document outlines the history of the site and its importance in the context of the wider Abbey area. It does not indicate any preference for possible future uses of the site.

But it does highlight relevant planning policies. The document also makes clear the requirement for a detailed archaeological investigation and appraisal for the former prison site in advance of any planning application being lodged by any potential developer.

The historical significance of this site, and its place within the wider Abbey area, needs to be fully appreciated by any prospective purchaser. By publishing this document, we are effectively reminding all potential future buyers or developers that a high level of protection exists on the site. We are proud of the history and heritage of Reading and it is therefore right that we do everything in our power to ensure that is conserved for future generations."

– Councillor Tony Page, RBC Lead Member for Planning


'New & positive' opportunities with prison land says MP

The land at Reading prison is an 'opportunity to do something new and positive' Credit: ITV Meridian

After the news that Reading prison is to close, MP Rob Wilson for Reading East has said that the 'decision offers an opportunity to do something new and positive with the land.'

He also added, "The important thing now is that we have a proper consultation of local people so they can have their say on what is the best use we can make of the site, while deciding at the same time whether all or part of the heritage of the prison is worth preserving.

"It is important that local people have their say on the future of this landmark site."

Reading prison is set to close

Following an announcement in a Parliamentary Statement by the Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation, Jeremy Wright MP, Reading prison will close.

Rob Wilson MP for Reading East had this to say:

Reading Prison has been an important part of our town’s history. It has been part of local life in Reading since 1844, and has had some well-known inmates, including Oscar Wilde.

In recent years it has been a youth offenders institute and has been cramped and not fit for purpose. Staff have done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances, so my first thoughts are for them. I will be demanding a meeting with the Minister to ensure staff have every opportunity to be redeployed or are supported to find suitable alternative employment.

– Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East