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Council leader says he's against Port Talbot prison

The proposed Port Talbot prison is part of Ministry of Justice plans to replace old jails with modern buildings on new sites. Photo: PA

Neath Port Talbot council leader Rob Jones has urged the UK government to drop its plans for a new prison at Baglan.

He's suggested four alternative sites, one elsewhere in the Port Talbot area, another near Swansea, one in Pembrokeshire and one in Powys.

Mr Jones says that until now he's not expressed a view because the council will have to consider the planning application. But he is now responding to the prison minister's remarks at Westminster this week, which he feels implied that the council backed the project.

Prions Minister Sam Gyimah had told MPs that the council leader was supporting the development of plans for a Port Talbot prison. Credit: Parliament TV

We are engaging with the Welsh Government and Members of Parliament, and with Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to develop its plans for the Port Talbot site. We are pleased to have ​had the support of the leader of the council, Councillor Rob Jones, and the Welsh Government throughout the process.

– Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah MP

I was dismayed and disappointed to learn that the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation on Tuesday inferred that the plans for a proposed new prison in Port Talbot are Council plans. I want to make it clear that the Council does not own the site in question and that these are Ministry of Justice proposals.

– Neath Port Talbot Council Leader Rob Jones

Cllr Jones has followed that up with an angry letter to the Prime Minister, complaining about what the Prisons Minister had said.

His statement was ambiguous and misleading, to say the least ... I wish to state clearly and unequivocally that at no time have I expressed my view or that of my council as to the merits or otherwise of establishing a new prison at Baglan Moors Port Talbot. Now that your Minister has expressed his interest in my views, may I respectfully suggest that there are far more appropriate sites to consider, Velindre [near Swansea] for example. I would even suggest use of the Kenfig Industrial site land, a location within my own ward boundary.

Failing consideration of these I would suggest that he and his officials return to the drawing board and examine carefully far more suitable sites, such as the former Royal Naval Armaments Depot establishment at Trecwn in Pembrokeshire or the former Talgarth Hospital in Powys.

– Cllr Rob Jones, in a letter to the Prime Minister