Jail site will have capacity for 1700 beds

The site plan for the new prison, with the first stage of the development on the right, and room for expansion to the left.
The site plan for the new prison, with the first stage of the development on the right, and room for expansion to the left. michael

THE Grafton jail site in the Pillar Valley will have an ultimate site capacity of 1700 beds according to a new planning report, although the State Government maintains there is only enough money in the budget for a 600-bed correctional centre.

Last month, Corrections Minister David Elliott said there were no current plans for the new Grafton prison to expand beyond its planned 600-bed capacity.

But an Infrastructure NSW report on the correctional facility's Concept Proposal and Stage 1 Early Works ultimately suggests a much larger project.

In the project overview, the concept proposal talks of the new 600 cell Grafton prison having a surge capacity of an additional 400 beds to accommodate up to 1000 inmates.

It also allows for biodiversity management, external road upgrade and access works, provision of essential infrastructure and services and other preparatory work for an ultimate site capacity of 1700 beds.

Clarence Valley Council's director of environment, planning and community Des Schroder said if those numbers were realised in future, they could have a 7% impact on the local economy as opposed to the current estimation of 1-2%.

But State Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis has quashed speculation, saying there is "certainly nothing in the state budget for a centre that size".

"The budget is for 600 beds, and we should have capacity to expand in the future so we aren't penned in and have opportunity.

"It's simply long-term planning and preparing for future, in the event that inmate numbers increase."

Mr Gulaptis said it was important, however, that the location of the chosen site was big enough for expansion to meet future needs.

He said he would advocate for 83-year-old Ben Jones, who was advised just hours before the announcement that his land at Lavadia would be aquired for the project, to receive adequate compensation.

The cattle farmer is currently in the process of building his dream home on the property.

"Wherever you go you're going to find a problem," Mr Gulaptis said.

"They selected this and identified it as the most suitable site, and it is ideally located. It's got to be built somewhere and like the Grafton bridge there will be some people impacted, some more than others.

"This jail for the greater good for the people of NSW and Mr Jones should be adequately compensated. It's his future, he's giving that up."

"I understand that people sometimes have an emotional and historical attachment to land, and that's something difficult to compensate."

Mr Schroder said Clarence Valley Council as far as those in council were concerned, the newly announced site "came out of the woodwork".

"We knew they were looking south of Grafton, we've provided costings for sites at various levels and places," he said.

"Answering questions like how far can you run water pipes, sewerage pipes - providing basic information. We do that for every developer that comes through the door.

"We had no role in final selection; we only found out about it at essentially the same time as the community."

An Environmental Impact Statement on the site is set to come early next year, which will inform a DA for the project.

Topics:  david elliott grafton jail

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