Campaigners were celebrating “people power” last night as councillors approved plans for a new prison for the north.
It is understood work could on the new HMP Highland – replacing the current 112-year-old facility in the city’s Hill area – by next year.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPC) had lodged a planning application in principle for a site to the rear of Inverness Retail and Business Park just off the A96.
Planning permission in Eastfield Way comes just months after residents of Milton of Leys opposed plans to build the facility near their homes.
Steve Gordon, former leader of the campaign group Highlands Against the Proposed Prison Location, welcomed the decision as a victory for residents of Milton of Leys.
He said: “For us it just shows that people power does work, and that democracy works.
“We had the support of MSPs and councillors past and present and we appreciate all of that. But, at the end of the day the location approved is appropriate, it’s a zoned area for development and has better infrastructure. There are lots of positives to the new location.“
The “state of the art” prison will feature a series of modern aspects including a visitors building, family help hub and community integration unit, as well as parking.
A security entrance will also be created across the existing bridge over the railway line to the rear of the proposed site.
Councillor Lawrie Fraser for Nairn said the new prison will be a positive step forward in providing the best opportunities for re-integration.
He said: “It’s a step in the right direction. We want to see improvements in the prison service and we want to see better opportunities for re-integration back into the community and for education and treating the addictions that some of the inmates have. It will be a positive environment and much more modern facilities.”
Councillor Ken Gowan for Inverness South also spoke of his delight at approving this ‘modern’ facility in what he classes as a “far more suitable site”.
He said: “It vindicates our stance and I am personally delighted that this went through today. It’s close to the roads and transport infrastructure, education services and the retail park.
“Inverness needs a new prison. The old prison is a Victorian building and after speaking to several officers who work there, it’s clear it’s not fit for purpose. We need a new modern prison in the Highlands and looking at the design, it looks state of the art.”
A spokeswoman from the Scottish Prison Service said: “The Scottish Prison Service is delighted that planning permission in principle for the new prison in Inverness has been granted.”