Ministry of Justice withdraws planning application for 1,500-capacity prison in Essex

The Ministry of Justice has withdrawn its application for a 1,500-capacity prison in Essex.

The application for a prison on the site of the former Runwell Hospital was due to be considered by Chelmsford council tonight. But the Ministry of Justice has written to the council to formally withdraw its application. The government said it had made the decision because the council’s planning officer was recommending that the application be rejected, on the grounds that the site had already been pencilled in for housing.

The prison is one of five 1,500-capacity prisons planned under the previous government, but sites for the other four prisons have yet to be found. Seven firms are on a framework to build the five prisons: Balfour Beatty, Bouygues, Carillion, Interserve, Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and Wates.

The Ministry of Justice said it will resubmit the application, but there are doubts that any new prisons will be built after justice secretary Ken Clarke announced that the number of prisoners is already too high.