Wrexham: Business Minister backs North Wales super prison campaign

Business Minister Edwina Hart has voiced her support for a campaign to build a super prison in North Wales.

According to Wrexham Business Professionals, it would bring massive and much-needed social and economic benefits for the region, including a 1,000 new jobs.

The Ministry of Justice say there is a need for a large prison to house up to 2,000 inmates, with North Wales being one of the possible locations.

Plans for a prison in Caernarfon were dropped in 2009 when a site on Wrexham Industrial Estate was in the running.

The campaign for a prison in North Wales has attracted widespread support across the judiciary and among the professional agencies that deal with offenders.

Currently, prisoners from North Wales are scattered around 25 different prisons in the UK.

It’s estimated the prison itself would employ 480 people and support services and suppliers would take on another 560 people in the wider region.

Mrs Hart was speaking before a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals – made up of accountants and solicitors – where she was guest of honour along with Robin Jones, Managing Director of the Village Bakery.

She said: “The First Minister has made it absolutely clear that we’d be very supportive of a prison coming to North Wales, not just for the jobs and the economy but also for the welfare of the prisoners.

“I think it’s very important that local authorities collectively work together to have the benefits not just for Wrexham but the whole of North Wales.

“I think it’s very important that Wrexham Business Professionals are making that call because there are enormous job opportunities as well as supply chain opportunities.”

Mrs Hart was delighted with the continuing success story of the award-winning Villager Bakery which employs 250 people in three bakeries, in Minera and two on Wrexham Industrial Estate.

The bakery had expanded with the help of grant aid from the Welsh Government and were, she said, a positive example to the rest of the business community.

She added: “We’ve absolutely delighted with the success of the Village Bakery – they made enough Welsh Cakes before St David’s Day to build the equivalent of two Snowdons.

“They are a significant company who are selling Wales outside Wales which is very important.

“They show that you can run a good business from anywhere and importantly they also have a local sourcing policy which is a big issue now.

“With the crisis we’ve had in the food industry recently, people are keener to know where their food comes from and they like to know that local people are involved in producing it. creating jobs and boosting the economy.”

Robin Jones was grateful to the Welsh Government for the financial assistance they had given, including a processing and marketing grant of £620,000 when they opened their gluten-free bakery in 2008

Mr Jones said: “We support our local economy and we receive support from the Welsh assembly, something that we are very grateful for.  We can demonstrate that with this support we can grow a business and repay that support with jobs and wealth creation for the local economy.”

There too was Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths who said: “The way the Village Bakery has expanded  and the success of the gluten free bakery is amazing.

“I am very proud that the Welsh Government has played a part in the continuing success story of the Village Bakery.

“They have received a large grant of more than £600,000 which gave them the springboard and confidence to take the business to the next level.

“They are a local company employing local people – 93 per cent of the 250 staff live within three miles of their place of work.”

“The Village Bakery is proof that Wrexham is a great place to do business and they are shining example of what can be achieved here.”

Speaking on behalf of Wrexham Business Professionals, Chartered Accountant Gill Atkinson said: “A new prison in Wrexham would mean 1,000 precious jobs and we’re very grateful to Mrs Hart for her support.

“This is a huge prize the like of which we will probably never see again in North Wales because there won’t be any other 1,000-job establishments created here.

“In the meantime, companies like the Village Bakery are a real inspiration and a clear demonstration that Wrexham is a great place to do business.”

It was a message echoed by solicitor Peter Butler, from GHP Legal, who said: “To be able to have the Welsh  Government Business Minister here is a real feather in our cap and to have people of the calibre of Robin Jones talking about business and enterprise in this area is fantastic.”

Fellow solictor Michael Keenan, of Walker Smith Way, added: “Our aim as a group is to emphasise the importance of using local services and the availability of locally based expertise to the wider business community.”

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