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Politicians from Lincolnshire in plea to safeguard future of Lincoln Prison

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: November 28, 2012

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Senior politicians from across Lincolnshire united to produce a passionate plea to safeguard the future of Lincoln Prison in front of Government officials this week.

Eight delegates, led by Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, held a "positive" meeting with Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright and civil servants.

Business owner Steve Gelder and top crime solicitor Mark McNeil also attended the summit on Tuesday.

The Echo revealed on November 1 how the Greetwell Road site was likely to be replaced by an immigration removal centre.

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But due to huge opposition from within the county that idea seemingly has been scrapped.

According to delegates, downgrading from a category B to a category C prison is now the most likely option.

The Government will make a final decision shortly before Christmas.

Ric Metcalfe, leader at City of Lincoln Council, was one of the delegates.

He told the Echo: "We had a very worthwhile meeting and I strongly believe Jeremy Wright took everything on board.

"A number of us made very passionate presentations and Mr Wright was very good in listening to what we had to say. We made it clear that Lincoln Prison cannot close under any circumstances.

"He confirmed three prisons in the country would be closing but wouldn't confirm which.

"It certainly seems there are problems with the immigration centre proposal and that is the least likely of the options now.

"This is obviously good news and I'm sure largely down to campaigns in the county and the fuss we have kicked up about it.

"What we had to stress, and did so in strong fashion, was that many counties have the benefit of three or four prisons.

"If Lincolnshire loses Lincoln Prison there is simply nothing to fall back on.

"So one of our questions was 'why pick on our prison?'

"It simply doesn't make sense.

"But I stress there will still be economic issues even if the prison downgrades. It will still affect an awful lot of people and jobs."

Mr McCartney, who secured the meeting, worries that students would no longer want to learn law at the University of Lincoln if the prison was to shut.

He now plans to meet with Ministry of Justice chief Chris Grayling, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, to further outline his concerns.

He said: "Closure of the prison would absolutely ruin our legal profession in the county, it would no longer be there.

"So that would have a detrimental affect on young people choosing our university to study law because if the prison was to close then there will probably not be a crown court for them to look at case studies. But the delegates held a pre-meeting and we went in very prepared. We were solid and firm and left the minister with no doubts as to how we feel: Lincoln Prison must remain as it is.

"That is certainly what I will keep fighting for.

Martin Hill, leader at Lincolnshire County Council, attended with the authority's chief executive Tony McArdle.

He said: "The minister gave us a good hearing and we were able to explain our concerns.

"As well as highlighting the importance of the prison, we also pointed out that the facility is totally unsuitable for use as an immigration remand centre.

"The minister has told us he expects to make a decision before Christmas so we will be sending a letter reiterating the points we have made."

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