Shut-down prison’s future remains uncertain

Kingston Prison
Kingston Prison
The Public Service Plaza, Havant Borough Council offices
Picture: Allan Hutchings (150078-158)

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It closed earlier this year, but so far the future for Portsmouth’s Kingston prison remains unclear.

The 143-year-old jail in Milton Road, Portsmouth, shut in March and nothing has been done with it since.

The Ministry of Justice closed it to cut costs, and a decision has yet to be made about its future.

Soon after the closure, deputy conservative group leader of Portsmouth City Council Luke Stubbs wrote a letter to the prison’s governor Ian Young asking questions about what would be done.

But he said the response he got back was vague and did little to address the situation.

‘It didn’t say very much,’ Cllr Stubbs said.

‘Since then, my understanding of the situation is the prison will sit empty for now.

‘If prison numbers go up, then the Ministry of Justice will consider reopening it.’

Cllr Stubbs said the prison could be turned into a state-of-the-art hotel or a place where TV documentaries are filmed.

And he stressed the need for something to be done sooner rather than later, as otherwise whoever takes it on could end up facing higher maintenance costs.

A car park on site could also be redeveloped.

‘Old prisons are interesting buildings,’ he said.

‘Kingston Prison is a great building.

‘It would make a fantastic hotel.

‘A lot of people would be interested in staying in a prison cell.

‘At any rate I would like to see it come back into use.

‘It would be good for a decision to be made on its long-term future soon.’

‘You should never leave buildings empty for too long.

‘It drives up the cost – the cost of maintaining and looking after it.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said someone had asked him if they could use it to provide community facilities and a place to work with offenders.

He said he would pass on their interest to the Ministry of Justice, and ruled out any talk of the council ever taking over.

‘I don’t think that’s an option,’ he said.

‘It was originally built by the council, but that’s not what we should be doing. We can’t afford it.

‘There would be massive costs involved.

‘We need to find a use for it because it’s a very historic building.

‘It’s about finding an alternative.

‘The other prison in the city which is closed has found an alternative use, which is in the dockyard, and that’s the Royal Marines School of Music.

‘They found all the cells are very good for practising in because nobody else can hear you.’

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: ‘We are considering a number of options for the future of the HMP Kingston site, but no decision has yet been made.’

As previously reported in The News, HMP Kingston was one of seven prisons that closed in England, including Camp Hill Prison on the Isle of Wight. It was a move that would save the government £63m a year.