Final confirmation of Reading Prison sale
by Marco Cillario Thu 10 December 2015, 5:37 pm
The government has announced that two years after its closure, Reading Prison is finally to be sold for redevelopment, as part of its prisons reform programme.
Chancellor George Osborne and justice secretary Michael Gove confirmed the plans on 9 November at south London’s Brixton Prison. They said Reading would be the first of a series of Victorian jails to be sold to make room for housing.
Osborne said that nine new detention centres would be opened around the country, as part of the so-called “new for old” programme, which aims to improve prisoners’ conditions by counteracting “violence and drug-taking”.
Reading deputy council leader, Tony Page, welcomed the announcement, but pointed out that the minister of justice first announced the prison would be sold two years ago.
He told the BBC: “It is a welcome development, providing this is now followed up with a timetable.” Until a timetable for the sale is in place, the council cannot start talking to interested buyers, Page added.
Built in 1844, the prison – where Oscar Wilde was held towards the end of the 19th Century – was considered outdated and closed in December 2013. During the following two years, no decisions were taken by the government on what to do with the building.
In October, the Ministry of Justice had even suggested the jail would be kept ready for operation in case of contingencies. It was announced in November that discussions were to be opened on alternative uses for the site.
“I think that housing is a good option,” Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, told ITV.
“We’ve got 10,000 local families on a long waiting list and I think it’s important that we try to provide the extra housing that local people need.”
A plan, outlined in a report discussed by the council in May, would see the redevelopment of the site as a component of the regeneration of Abbey Quarter, the ancient area which includes the 12th Century ruins where Henry I was buried.