Prison chiefs have hit back at bosses of the biggest retail park in Inverness over plans for a new £66million city jail.
The service defended its proposals for the new 200-inmate HMP Highland next door to the Inverness Shopping Park – revealing the development was the “smallest ever” jail it had designed.
The Scottish Prison Service lodged an application in May for permission in principle to build the 130,000sq ft replacement for Porterfield jail on an 18-acre plot behind Homebase, at the south-western end of the shopping park.
It would be located just 65 yards from the Vue cinema, and within 115 yards of offices at Stoneyfield Business Park, and the Press and Journal reported last month that the retail park’s owners, the Hercules Unit Trust, had lodged a series of objections to the application.
Now the prison service has responded to the claims, in a letter written by its agents Colliers International which aims to address three key objections.
The service does not dispute that the land is zoned for “bulky goods retail”, but highlights that the local development plan’s policy on bulky goods retail expired last year, and that new prisons are not normally envisaged in such plans.
It adds: “We would highlight that other prisons, including the existing facility within the Crown area of Inverness, are located in close proximity to a range of uses and largely operate without adverse effect.
“The point being made is that modern prison facilities are high quality designed buildings which are developed to work within and alongside local communities.
“In the specific location, the prison has been designed to take account of design, materials, heights, scale and general environment. It responds to these in a positive manner providing a building of which the local community can feel proud.”
On objections relating to traffic and drainage implications at the site, the letter argues that assessments have shown that there would be “no technical impacts which would merit its refusal”.
It concludes: “The objector considers that the prison development is of a ‘significant scale’. We do not agree. It is a fact that the prison proposed is the smallest ever designed by the prison service.
“Ultimately we do not agree with the conclusions reached in the letter of objection, and instead find that the material considerations presented in the application are weighty and outweigh the development plan position in this case.”
Planning committee members are expected to consider the prison proposals next month.