Anger at mega prison dumped in Dagenham

A MEGA prison, which may be built in Dagenham, has sparked furious debate in the borough – with some people for and others against the idea of 1,500 inmates on our doorsteps. It was announced last week by Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, in the House of Com

A MEGA prison, which may be built in Dagenham, has sparked furious debate in the borough - with some people for and others against the idea of 1,500 inmates on our doorsteps.

It was announced last week by Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, in the House of Commons, that Labour was considering Beam Park Reach as a site for one of five new jails.

The prison is classed as Category B - the second highest level of security, with inmates who are deemed "likely to try and escape".

Council bosses and the London Thames Gateway development corporation (LTGDC) say building the penitentiary will help secure the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) extension to Dagenham Dock.


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Chief Executive of LTGDC, Peter Andrews, said: "This development has the potential to bring significant investment to the area and create a number of jobs, in Dagenham, in a range of professions.

"The scheme will also further strengthen the case for getting the DLR extension and a new station at Beam Reach."

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The new prison, if it goes ahead, will generate an estimated 800 jobs in a variety of areas.

Council Chief Executive, Rob Whiteman told the POST last week that local people would welcome the jobs and that he supported Mayor of London Boris Johnson's renewed interest in the DLR extension.

However, MP for Dagenham, Jon Cruddas, has vowed to help the people have their say.

He said: "I was told about this plan to put a prison in Dagenham just an hour before the Justice Secretary announced it in the House of Commons.

"People should come to the public consultation and have their say in this.

"I will ask Jack Straw to be there."

A date for the public consultation has not yet been set, but it will take place in due course.

Initially Jack Straw announced that he was planning to build two "Titan" jails, one of which was originally destined for a site in Rainham.

But the idea was protested against vigorously by families in the area and in 2007, a massive demonstration of more than 5,000 people took place.

Barking MP Margaret Hodge battled against the idea of a prison in her constituency when it was mooted four years ago that Barking Riverside was a possible site, saying that the land should be used to provide much needed housing.

She said: "It is important to see how the community will feel about this, however the new jobs are undoubtedly a good thing.

"They will not just be prison officers, but in catering and other areas too."

Conservative councillor, Terry Justice, feels that the land in Beam Park Reach would be best used by other businesses, which would also create jobs.

He said: "In my opinion, the erection of a prison on that site will put off other companies.

"I cannot imagine anyone wanting to open a business next to a prison.

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