Mixed response to Caernarfon prison plans

FEARS that house prices could slump and crime rates rocket if a new prison is built on the banks of the Menai Strait were dismissed at a public meeting.

Scores of people turned up to discuss Home Office proposals to create more than 1,000 jobs by building a new prison on the site of Caernarfon’s former Ferodo brake factory.

Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said the prison would house up to 900 prisoners and inject £17m annually into the local economy if plans get the go-ahead.

Residents were urged to grasp the opportunities a new prison would offer at the meeting at Theatr Seilo on Friday.

But some raised fears it could affect house prices, cause the crime rate to rocket and overwhelm council services if there was an influx of prisoners’ families to the area.

Gwynedd Council worker Gwenno Williams preferred a Center Parc-style facility.

“Families visiting relatives in jail might say ‘what a lovely place’ and settle here, putting pressure on housing, social services and schools at a time when the council is having to make huge savings,” she said.

Karen Jones, whose parents live close to the proposed prison, said they would not feel safe in their home if a prison was built. She said: “A lot of homes on Bangor Road will be up for sale before the prison is completed. I hope the Government runs out of money and it will never be built.”

But Gwynedd Council leader Dyfed Edwards told them: “I understand your fears but I can’t agree. I believe there will be more advantages than disadvantages. I would like to see a Center Parc built on the Menai Strait but I can’t see that happening.

“There is no other option in the near future for this site.”

Eirlys Jones, who has worked with prisoners for 30 years, was unaware of any families who’d visited prisoners at Millom jail in the Lake District settling in the area.

Angela Haines argued that the prison would damage tourism.

“This is a beautiful part of the world. We won’t get much benefit from low income families visiting prisoners in jail,” she said.

Former union official Tom Jones said it was important to listen to local opinion: “But let’s not lose sight of the opportunities this offers. A lot of people were against Dinorwig power station but that scheme put a lot of people on their feet in the Llanberis area.”

Branwen Niclas told the meeting she had served four prison terms: “I did break the law and did my time. Each time I had to go to English prisons. I met one girl from Caernarfon who hadn’t had a visit in nine months because she was too far away.

“I’m not a fan of the (prison) system but I welcome this project.”