Plans for an expansion at Ford Prison were submitted in October 2021 by the Ministry of Justice and have now been granted planning permission.
HMP Ford is a men’s open prison and two blocks will be built to house 120 prisoners with 80 car parking spaces and a new perimeter fence.
An existing block will be demolished to make way for the expansion.
A statement from the MoJ says the national prison population is forecast to increase over the next ten years, reaching ‘unprecedented levels’ by the end of the decade.
It is thought that the rate of police recruitment and reforms will lead to ‘significantly more arrests’ and extra capacity may be needed as a result of the backlog of cases from the pandemic and increasing Crown Court capacity.
The MOJ said the Ford Prison plans are part of an ‘ambitious programme of prison expansion’ which will deliver 18,000 prison places nationally.
This aims to ‘ensure prison is a decent, safe, productive place to live and work’; to help ‘protect the public from harm’; and to ‘reduce re-offending rates and improve life changes for prisoners’, according to the MoJ.
Ford’s new buildings will be ‘as close to net zero carbon as possible’, says the MoJ.
Although one new block will take up open space currently used for sports, the MoJ said ‘encroachment will be minimal’ and the space will still be usable. Clymping Parish Council originally objected to the plans but has since withdrawn its comments, saying its concerns ‘have been addressed’.
All prisoners at Ford have less than two years left of their sentences to serve and the prison focuses on resettlement and teaching new skills.
Why is the prison being expanded?
In April 2021, the prison had around 418 prisoners with space for up to 448. A report by the prisons watchdog in Spring 2021 found ‘poor cleanliness’ and ‘shabby conditions’.
“Nearly all living accommodation and communal areas were poorly maintained and lacked investment,” said the report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. Many prisoners still lived in overcrowded rooms. Some showers and toilets were in poor condition. Some of the small kitchen areas lacked running water, which led to prisoners cleaning their utensils in the same buckets used to wash clothing.”
The watchdog recommended an upgrade to the accommodation to ‘provide all prisoners with decent living conditions’.
Some were living in temporary ‘pods’ after a building was condemned in 2020 but the prison inspector said this ‘did not offer a long-term solution to the accommodation problem’.
In contrast, they said that most outdoor areas were ‘spacious, well-kept and pleasant’ and ‘contributed to prisoner well-being’.
More details on the expansion plans can be found at the council’s planning portal using the reference: F/19/21/PL.