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Last Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006, 16:15 GMT
Troop family fears ends jail plan
Connaught Barracks
The military moved out of Connaught Barracks in April
A plan to convert a former barracks in Dover into an open prison has been abandoned because it would worry the families of soldiers fighting abroad.

Home Secretary John Reid said on Friday he had made the decision after hearing "powerful arguments" against the prison from campaigners in the Kent town.

Families of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan live near the barracks and their children go to school nearby.

"That particular thing has weighed heavily on my mind," he said.

The barracks has been empty since the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment pulled out of Dover in April.

It is just fantastic that we have actually managed to change a government minister's view
Campaigner Malcolm Scott

The BBC first learned of a plan to convert it to an open prison in September and Dover District Council threatened legal action when the Home Office confirmed it.

Protesters feared the decision was a "done deal" after a governor was appointed, and Dover MP Gwyn Prosser told a public meeting attended by about 100 people his objections were "falling on deaf ears".

Dr Reid said he had been under considerable pressure to find extra prison places across the country.

But Mr Prosser and local protesters had raised a number of important issues about Connaught Barracks.

"There is the presence locally of the families of those who are fighting abroad, and a school where the children of those who are facing terrible risks in Afghanistan and Iraq are being educated," Dr Reid said.

He said the presence of a prison would add to their worries, which he was unwilling to do.

People at a public meeting
Protest groups were quickly formed against the prison plans

"The people of Dover can take it this is off the agenda," he said.

Mr Prosser said he was delighted the plan had been dropped.

"The prison proposals have been well and truly poleaxed as a result of Dover's excellent campaign," he said.

He paid tribute to organisers of the protest campaign, Malcolm Scott and Julia Bishop.

"It is just fantastic news that we have actually managed to change a government minister's view," said Mr Scott.

Councillor Paul Watkins, leader of Dover District Council said it was a victory for the "small guys".

"We think John Reid has made the right decision."

Watch the reaction to the home secretary's decision


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