Decision looms on Cessnock jail plan

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Cessnock MP Clayton Barr, left, addresses a community meeting on the plan earlier this year.THE state government is expected to back down on key partsof its controversial plan to expand the Cessnock jail, with Cessnock MP Clayton Barr saying the government is “likely” to close the main entrance to the facility.
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It follows months of community uproar over the plan to more than double the size of the prison, bringing the number of inmates to 1800, without announcing any major upgrades to out-of-jail infrastructure including roads, policing or health facilities.

After discussions with Corrective Services Minister David Elliott, Mr Barr said it appeared the government was now prepared to make concessions.

The MP said the biggest concession wasthe closure of the Lindsay Street entrance, which has long drawn the ire of residents for its traffic problems, and the construction of a new entrance on the state-owned Wine Country Drive.

Decision looms on Cessnock jail plan SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

SERVING TIME: Concept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.

TweetFacebook Serving timeConcept designs for the new ‘rapid-build’ maximum security prison proposed to be built at Cessnock jail.He said other concessions flagged by Mr Elliott included a possible purpose-built inmate room at the hospital and changes to the prison layout.

“This is as a result of all those meetings and the obvious community concern and uproar,” Mr Barr said.

“There’s been a bit of compromise … and we seem to be heading in a better direction.

“None of it has been locked in, but verbally, the minister has given some indication we are getting sensible compromise.”

Neither Mr Elliott’s office nor Corrective Services would confirm or deny changes to the original plan, with the Review of Environmental Factors report due to be released later this week.

“Corrective Services NSW consulted with the community on the expansion and will take this feedback into account when finalising the plans for the new centre,” a spokeswoman said.

However, in a tellingsign the issue is coming to a head, Mr Elliott is due to meet with Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent on Monday.

Council’s major concern is road access to the site, as well as community safety.

“We need the best deal we can get for the community, whether it be police, the hospital or those road issues,” Cr Pynsent said, addingthat “positives” of the expansion included the hundreds of new jobs.

There has been noindication the government is set to reduce thenumber of inmates bound for the jail.