Page last updated at 05:38 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 06:38 UK

Factory could be new prison site

FACTFILE - Caernarfon
The former Ferodo site
LOCATION: A487, Bangor Road, Caernarfon, Gwynedd
SITE: Former brake-lining factory made famous by a two-and-a-half year industrial dispute
PROPOSAL: Prison for up to 800 inmates
SITE OWNER: Developers Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd
ARGUMENTS FOR: Will being jobs; North Wales has not got a prison and it will ease travel times for inmates' families and solicitors
AGAINST: Possible access difficulties and some environmental issues

A former brake lining factory in Gwynedd is one of four locations earmarked as a possible site for a new jail for Wales.

The site is still known locally as Ferodo, even though it was made famous by Friction Dynamics.

Staff picketed for more than two years after being sacked in 2001 for taking industrial action.

Developers Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd have been formally approached by the Ministry of Justice about their site.

The North Wales Criminal Justice Board has previously claimed a prison could create 1,000 jobs and bring 17m investment to the area.

The Ministry of Justice admitted there was an overall shortage of prison places in north Wales of around 800; in the south it is 500.

Nearly 200 places for women places are also required within these totals.

When the prisons minister, David Hanson, made the announcement about the four possible sites at Cwmbran, Merthyr, Wrexham and Caernarfon, on 6 August political reaction from Gwynedd was positive.

Richard Thomas
It offends and frightens me to hear that it would be so close to Caernarfon
Richard Thomas, resident

"There is a clear case for a new prison that can cater for inmates from north Wales and their families," said Gwynedd council leader, Dyfed Edwards.

Caernarfon MP Hywel Williams also welcomed the location being considered.

"Obviously there will be people with concerns, but there will now be a period when we can have a discussion about what needs to be done in Caernarfon for it to be taken into consideration," he told BBC Wales.

"I have high hopes that my constituents will take full advantage of that," he said.

Mr Williams said there were hundreds of people from across north Wales who were currently held at Altcourse prison at Liverpool.

This caused problems for probation officers, solicitors, police officers as well as the families of those involved, he said.

Families of those in prison claim they are penalised by having to travel long distances to see their loved ones.

One mother from Caernarfon told the BBC a few months ago she thought her miscarriage had been caused by the stress of travelling 80-miles to Liverpool to visit her partner.

Reaction locally is varied.

Richard Thomas, who lives right next to the site, said: "I'm not best pleased about this.

Gwyndaf Thomas
This area needs the work
Gwyndaf Thomas, local resident

"I appreciate that it could bring jobs, which would normally get my vote, but it offends and frightens me to hear that it would be so close to Caernarfon.

"We would need reassurance that it was not an open prison, not category A, there are concerns.

"I don't want to be a Nimby (Not In My Back Yard), but you have to ask, is this serving the community? And I don't think it is," he added.

Wyn Roberts is the former chairman of Roberts of Portdinorwic, a family firm employing 90 people at its food plant next to the site.

"I don't know what exactly they have planned and I'm a bit surprised that no-one from the council has asked for our opinion as to any effect on us," he said.

"We have invested heavily at the site, and will be doing so again in the future.

"A lot of people are in jobs here, including graduates, and many of our employees have been with us for over 20 years," he added.

People on the street in Caernarfon also had a mixed response.

"This is not a good idea in Caernarfon as it is mainly a tourist area and it will put people off visiting here, and businesses will suffer," said Chris Parker.

'Development options'

But Gwyndaf Thomas said: "You are talking of at least five years of work on the construction and then after it opens jobs in admin and security.

"This area needs the work," he added.

Gary Goodman, the land and planning director with Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd said the ministry had told them the site had "satisfied a number of their site specific criteria" and that the project had "potential to generate a number of positive economic benefits".

"We (the directors of Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd) felt it was only right that the local community and key stakeholders are given the opportunity to put forward their views on this proposal," said Mr Goodman.

The company were still working with the Welsh Assembly Government and Gwynedd Council to "assess a number of development options for the site" despite the interest from the Ministry of Justice, he added.


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