Planning application DC/21/2418/ HMP Highpoint

I am currently at the Development Control Committee at West Suffolk Council waiting to speak on the matter of the Highpoint expansion.

What I am going to say I reproduce below for full transparency.

“This is an important planning application and one I support in principle as it helps the economy and provides jobs. And for West Suffolk a very unusual one. An application that the details have had to largely remain secret from the general public. Thank you to officers for the huge amount of work thus far.

So, the role of this committee and the planning process is of the greatest importance. The public must see that their views have been listened to, which is why I called it in.

I am pleased to say that the public has been listened to, partially. The MoJ has agreed to move the proposed car parks on the North of the site relocating them to the south away from the housing estate. And I thank them for this. Outside of this application the Prison has also agreed to resurface the service Road which has been a great source of concern for residents. Again I am very grateful.

I’m sure you can hear a but coming. A big but about highways. The A143 is a busy and dangerous road.

As recently as April 2022 suffolk highways and the constabulary saw merit in recommending reducing the speed limit from 40mph to 30mph on the A143 at Highpoint to improve highway safety. 9 reportable accidents have occurred in the last 5 years. Locals know of many more, with cars in ditches a regular feature. The constabulary would like safety cameras.

Somehow, by July 2020, in just 3 months, the applicant has convinced authorities that the objections can be lifted despite safety cameras, speed limits and pedestrian access to local amenities all being required in the April.

On page 163 para 24 The highway authority supports the police who recommend a speed reduction to 30mph.

Page 192 para 96 must be disputed. Claiming an additional 700 prisoners, with additional visitors, staff, contractors and police would not add to the road safety issues already identified is just nonsense. Using this as an excuse to avoid obligations under s106 to service the agreed merit of reducing speed is playing games with peoples lives.

Para 99 claims the development is considered safe and suitable and the development would not lead to traffic danger. I just don’t believe it.

It is currently difficult and dangerous for pedestrians to cross the A143 to use the local shop. The increase in footfall, as a result of the expansion, with no reduction in the speed limit is an accident waiting to happen. This must be seen as an increase in risk directly relating to the prison expansion.

Let me speak plainly.

This doesn’t look good. I understand the government has a priority to expand prisons and that gov departments may work together to achieve this objective but this must not be at all cost.

I would be interested to hear from planning officers what brought about the radical change in recommendations between April and July this year?

Unless the speed limit is reduced, speed cameras installed and improved foot access provided to local amenities this application should be refused.”

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