The prison service has asked local authorities to identify sites for prisons in greater London as the government moves to accommodate record prison numbers.

Planning consultant Paul Dickinson and Associates has been commissioned by the service to liaise with local authorities and it is understood that the firm is working with councils over the issue.

One prison service source said that the government expected local authorities to be co-operative. He said: “This comes from the top; councils will be expected to identify sites as part of the development plan process.”

He added that greater London had been identified as an area of strategic importance for the sites and councils would be under pressure to co-operate.

The prison population in England and Wales stood at 76,297 last month, which is a record.

A prison service spokesman said: “There are a number of sites across the country being considered, and as yet no decisions have been taken as to where or what type of prisons will be built.”