What will be future of open prison site?

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NORANSIDE Open Prison has closed its doors for good.

The decision was made to close the prison by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) earlier this year after it was deemed surplus to requirements.

All prisoners have now been transferred to Castle Huntly which is now the only open prison in Scotland.

The premises at Noranside will continue to be looked after on a care and maintenance basis until such a time as a decision is made towards its future.

To keep in line with usual regulations the site must be offered to other government departments but the SPS have confirmed that they think there will be little interest in the former prison.

It now seems likely that the jail and its land will be put on the open market.

As well as the prison buildings, Noranside has a large amount of productive farmland which would sell well if placed on the market.

It is not yet known what will become of the many buildings.

Alison Andrews, Angus Alliance councillor, said: “The absolute ideal would be a hotel. Angus is desperate for hotel accommodation, but whether any private company would be willing to take it on is a big question.

“The main building would probably not need a huge amount of work and it doesn’t look like a prison because it wasn’t built as one.

“With a bit of imagination, and probably a very large amount of money, I think it could be done.

“But the last thing we want to see is for it to lie unused for a long time - I wouldn’t wish that on any large building.”

Councillor Andrews is also worried that the closure of Noranside might have repercussions on the visiting committee which was set-up to cover the Angus site and Castle Huntly near Dundee.

She said: “I took on the visiting committee role because Noranside is close to me and I have found it a very interesting and rewarding experience.

“There are question marks over what will happen with the currently combined visiting committee for Castle Huntly and Noranside. At the moment there is a maximum of 15 members - five from each of the three council areas which were covered by the two prisons.

“The SPS are saying that the full number is too many for one site but we are urging them that in the case of the open estate they need more visiting committee input.

“Committee members have built up expertise over many years and if there were changes they could be throwing that away, which would strike me as incredibly wasteful.”

Ivan Laird, Kirriemuir landward east community council chairman, added: “Noranside has had substantial investment and I hope that a positive use can be found for it rather than it lying empty too long.