RECORD numbers of people queued up for an unusual prison break – trying to get in.
They were hoping to be allowed into the former Kingston Prison in Portsmouth to see plans for its future, but after hundreds of people turned up, there were long queues to be allowed in.
The queue snaked down St Mary’s Road, and some peope were disappointed to be turned away.
The prison closed two years ago and residents were keen to see inside it and to view the plans developer City & Country has for the site.
Richard Winsborough, from City & Country, said: ‘This is the fourth consultation we have carried out and by far the largest attendance, which is a good thing to say about Portsmouth people.’
Some people did not get in due to the high demand and were left infuriated by the ‘shambolic’ nature of the consultation.
Pat Huxtable, 61, from Southsea, tried to get in to the consultation at two separate times and she said that at both times there were long queues. She was eventually turned away by security at 7.10pm, 50 minutes before it was due to close.
Mrs Huxtable said: ‘It really was quite shambolic.
‘They underestimated the number of people who wanted to see it although some people thought it was a chance to look around the prison, not to view the plans. People were so cross that there could have been trouble.’
Of those who did get in, many had their own idea of what they think the disused prison should be converted to.
Jenny Kneller, 57, from Fratton, said: ‘A hotel would be nice.’
Annette Fairhurst, 62, from Milton, said: ‘I would like to see a museum to add to the Historic Dockyard, the Portsmouth Museum – I would like it to be put on the attraction list. It would also be good as a school for misbehaving pupils as it would make them behave themselves.’
Many aired their opposition to the building being turned into flats but some wanted to see the building put to a more entertaining use.
Robin Ware, 60, from Buckland, said: ‘There is nothing for kids to do in Portsmouth so it should be given to the youth.
‘My grandchildren would go to the prison if it was turned into a boot camp.’
Portsmouth’s council leader Donna Jones welcomed the public’s interest in the future of the site.
She said: ‘On my Facebook site I posted information about the prison and had responses from over 1,000 people saying what they wanted to be in there.
‘I have lived in Portsmouth all my life and had never been into Kingston Prison. It was fantastic to go into the prison as it has such historical significance.’
Another consultation will be held in July where it will open up the prison and showcase popular suggestions for the site from residents.