Shatter dismisses jail plan fears of residents

The redevelopment of Cork Prison looks set to go ahead after Justice Minister Alan Shatter dismissed an overwhelmingly negative local response to the €22m plan.

A report on the consultation process for the proposed facility revealed detailed concerns from the city council and local residents.

It raised issues with planning policy, road capacity, privacy, and fears of anti-social conduct.

However, in a point-by-point response, Mr Shatter expressed satisfaction with the Irish Prison Service proposal to redevelop the Rathmore Rd facility.

The Irish Prison Service is using a legal planning exemption designed to overcome local opposition.

Last year a rapporteur, James Farrelly, was appointed by Mr Shatter to consult with the local community about the Irish Prison Service’s plans.

His report, published yesterday, detailed the weight of opposition.

The city council said the design contravened its planning policies, was too high, and would be out of character to the area around The Glen. It also said it would undermine a 10-year plan to regenerate the area, which has cost €38m.

A petition signed by 133 local residents urged the Irish Prison Service not to expand its existing complex. A further petition, with 62 signatures, also opposed the proposal.

The residents asked if the “state apparatus will ignore the wishes of the residents”.

The rapporteur was told that the Irish Prison Service was trying to squeeze a plan that was to be built on 80 acres at Kilworth into a six-acre plot beside the protected area of Collins Barracks.

People who could end up living alongside the 275-inmate facility said they would have security concerns.

“In particular, concerns were expressed for locals in light of the potential escape attempts and problems associated with efforts to get illegal drugs to prisoners,” the report said.

There was a demand for compensation to install security devices and tinted windows, if the prison is built.

Houses on Brandon Crescent and Brandon Court will be overshadowed by the heightened prison walls, locals said.

The rapporteur was also told that houses in the area have sold for as little as €41,000 and, separately, it was noted that valuations had fallen by 30% since the proposed prison was mooted.

However, in his point-by-point response, Mr Shatter largely dismissed the objections. “Action is urgently required to address the chronic overcrowding and inadequate conditions in Cork Prison,” he said.

“This fit-for-purpose prison will also provide the infrastructure necessary for the education and rehabilitation of prisoners, which in turn will enhance public safety.”

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