Ex-prison may be turned into major business park
A deal has been completed to turn a former prison into a business park.
Rutland County Council plans to transform Ashwell Prison, near Oakham, into a 25-acre park for small and medium-sized businesses.
If the scheme is approved, the first tenants could move in by the end of the summer.
Down will come the razor wire-topped fences and buildings of the former category C open prison.
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Three-quarters of the prison was destroyed in a riot four years ago and more than £1 million was spent refurbishing part of it before the decision was taken to close it.
The jail, which once held 600 inmates, has since been used to train police and prison officers.
Council leader Roger Begy said: "This is a very exciting project for the community. It provides much-needed business units and facilities at affordable rates, giving businesses and entrepreneurs the chance to get themselves up and running.
"It secures the future of a key site in Rutland, which could easily have remained boarded up for a number of years."
As well as space for businesses, there is a gym, sports hall and an all-weather pitch which the council hopes clubs can use.
Coun Begy said: "Lots of businesses have already contacted the council after hearing about our plans last year.
"We are more than happy to talk to any small to medium-sized business which may be thinking about relocating or expanding."
The council, which bought the site from the Ministry of Justice for £1.3 million, will submit a planning application in the next few weeks for the business park.
The council is drawing up the plans with a technical team, including architects, electricians and a project manager.
The concrete accommodation blocks, damaged during the riot, will make way for new units.
Refurbishment will take place over the next few years.
The prison closed in 2011 because the Ministry of Justice said it would not be financially viable to rebuild it following the riots.
The council has been discussing buying the site since and has held open days and meetings with people living in the area.
Ashwell villager Angela Shone said: "Everybody I've spoken to seems to be reasonably pleased with the plan.
"It will tidy the site up – it's a right mess at the moment. It will be better than houses, I really don't think we need any more houses."
Rutland and Melton MP Alan Duncan said: "I am fully behind the positive outcome the council has secured for the site.
"I am sure it will be an important boost to the local economy."