Rutland County Council to consider options plan for former prison site

RPC Containers factory in Oakham
RPC Containers factory in Oakham

RUTLAND County Council has agreed to spend up to £35,000 on an options plan for a former prison site.

Ashwell Prison was closed by the Ministry of Justice in March last year after riots there in April 2009 caused too much damage to repair.

The county council had hoped to buy the 25-acre site and sell 70 per cent of it to RPC Containers which is currently based in Schofield Road, Oakham.

The remaining land would be used for smaller or start-up businesses.

But RPC Containers pulled out of the plans and has instead decided to invest the money into its current site.

On Monday night the council agreed to spend up to £35,000 to evaluate its options for the site.

Deputy leader Terry King (Con) told the council he had met Ministry of Justice officials and they had agreed not to market the site to developers until the council has decided whether it could buy the land. However, they want a decision by July.

The council hopes a business park would encourage more industry into the county.

Coun King said: “We are not quite back to square one but we are in a position where there is now no certainty around the future of the site.

“There are buildings on that site that if we weren’t in a recession there would be a queue at the door from small to medium enterprises. It is a long-term project and we need to consider whether by spending this money we are helping ourselves and the community.”

Coun King said businesses were more likely to move to the county if there were suitable sites, rather than spend money on building their own premises on land in Oakham already allocated for employment use.

The council will not reveal how much the site is likely to cost but has said that the Ministry of Justice would consider accepting payments in three instalments.

The council has agreed to submit a non-commital bid to the Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, of which it is a member, for funding from the Growing Places Fund, which is provided by the Government to promote economic growth.

RPC Containers is investing £2m into transforming one of its warehouses into a new manufacturing hall.

It hopes to complete the work by the end of April and create 35 new jobs in the town.

General manager Philip Jones said: “We investigated the possibility of moving to the prison site but it was decided that the benefits of moving did not outweigh the risk.”