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HMP Blantyre House, Goudhurst, could reopen as training facility after Ministry of Justice application

By Ed McConnell

A former prison, plagued by violence and security problems, could be reopened as a training facility.

Blantyre House, in Goudhurst, shut temporarily for refurbishment last January.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) denied it was closing the 122-prisoner semi-open resettlement prison permanently but it has remained shut ever since and HMP Prison Service has now deemed it surplus to requirements.

Blantyre House Prison
Blantyre House Prison

More than 18 months on the MoJ has applied to use it for the next five years as a training facility for prison and probation staff.

The department has applied to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for permission to go ahead with the move and has confirmed the Roundgreen Lane site is part of the National Offender Management Services’ (NOMS) future capacity plans, meaning it could be reopened as a prison at any point.

The proposal would see a maximum of 60 staff and eight trainers use the facility between 8am and 5pm on weekdays and would not require any construction work.

The MoJ has eased residents concerns about increased traffic, saying the change of use will have no negative impact on the highways.

But at least one resident is worried it has failed to take into account catering, administration and maintenance vehicles.

Between 2007 and 2015 10 prisoners are known to have absconded from Blantyre House, including murderers and a robber.

Once described as “the jewel in the prison service crown,” standards began to slip at the facility and a damming Independent Monitoring Board report stated there were “unprecedented problems with drugs, bullying and violence,” with two stabbings, a sex assault and seven absconsions in 2013 alone.

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