Limavady traders fear prison closure

Published Tuesday, 24 April 2012
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There are fears that plans to close Magilligan Prison in Co Londonderry would deal a devastating blow to the economy of Limavady.

Limavady traders fear prison closure
The decision to spend £240m on prisons has been questioned. (© UTV)

A review of the Prisons Service in Northern Ireland has recommended decommissioning HMP Magilligan by 2018 and replacing it with a new facility near Maghaberry.

Most of the jail's 400 staff currently live within 15 minutes of Limavady.

Edwin Stevenson from the Chamber of Trade says they pump millions of pounds into the town's local economy, and the move would be a major blow.

"Limavady is struggling at the present time, let's be honest about it," he told UTV. "We had something like 300 empty premises in the borough.

"There will be many more after this. We've got to look at the impact these workers have into this community and that will be a big impact I can tell you."

The Prison Estates Review has proposed closing Magilligan - the second-largest prison in NI - and building a new medium security jail near Belfast within the next six years.

It is part of a 10 year programme of reforms that will cost a total of £240m.

Magilligan, which holds around 500 inmates, underwent a multi-million pound redevelopment less than four years ago - but prison inspectors say much of the antiquated jail is not fit for purpose.

Alliance Justice Minister David Ford said: "Some of our prison estate is reaching the end of its working life and this strategy addresses what our options are to maintain secure custody for the prison population."

Some politicians have vowed to fight to save Magilligan.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: "This proposal has to be binned. We can upgrade the existing site at Magilligan on a much more cost-effective basis, have a good prison in the greater Belfast area and a good prison in the North West and that makes sense for everybody."

UUP MLA Tom Elliott said: "There are approximately 400 jobs dependent on Magilligan and the loss to the economy of Limavady and neighbouring towns would be in the region of £10 million per annum. This would have an horrendous impact."

However Sinn Féin said they are in favour of shutting down Magilligan and returning the site to its natural, sand-dune landscape.

Cathal McLaughlin said: "We believe that this area is just natural for tourism. It is open, you've the ferry just down the road from Magilligan to Greencastle, you've tourists down at Benone.

"I think to re-develop the whole area, you know, and turn into a tourism gold mine basically."

The matter will be discussed by Stormont's Justice Committee before going out to public consultation, before a final decision is taken.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
5 Comments
Matt in Londonderry wrote (836 days ago):
@Happy in derry What on earth has a story about the closure of a prison got to do with an army training ground? On topic, the closure of the prison would be terrible for the area. I can understand why some might want rid of it, however I doubt there are many towns (especially Limavady and neighbouring Ballykelly) that can afford any loss of trade.
Not Surprised Anymore in North Coast wrote (845 days ago):
The red flags relate to the MOD firing ranges and have nothing to do with the prison. The ferry, I am told by an ex-employee, is out of business so that councillor needs to swot up on his own area. This proposed closure is another disturbing indication of a pattern of centralisation of public sector services. Our hospitals are being centralised to Belfast and Londonderry with The Causeway Hospital at Coleraine under severe threat of closure. This would leave the entire N.E. of the province without a hospital! The devastating effect of the consequent job losses as a result of these decisions is well known in Stormont, so it would seem to be a deliberate decision to abandon various provincial towns like Limavady and Coleraine to their fate. I don't remember this in any Party manifesto!
Rab in Limavady wrote (847 days ago):
Maybe some people wont be sorry to see it closed, even though this would seem to be an utterly ridiculous standpoint and one reserved for the truly stupid. The shutting of the prison will be a terrible blow for the local economy which lets face it is particularly hard hit of recent years. These things have a knock on effect on other businesses and to think only 400 prison jobs will be affected is a blinkered and idiotic opinion. Many businesses rely on these places and for there to be joy on the closure of the prison shows a lack of knowledge of the bigger picture. As for cost saving, considering there will be a new prison opening, (surprisingly enough), closer to belfast it doesn't seem sensible, fair or partially thought through
dave in north coast wrote (848 days ago):
This is exactly the problem of public sector disinvestment, it’s cumulative and knocks on to other sections of the economy. Thus even more loss to the area. After seagate the lesson is that the impact of this will be broad. Anyone celebrating or supporting job losses and economic consolidation into Belfast from up here really needs their head looked.
Happy in derry wrote (848 days ago):
I wont be sorry to see it closed!Benone beach is one of the best beaches we have and many a Sunday i go there for a walk but cant access half the beach due to the soldiers training!!! or supposed to be!! Its to nice an area to have an eyesore like the Prison stuck there anyway.So i for one will not be sorry to see the end of the RED FLAGS !!!
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