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Ministry of Justice confirms HMP Blantyre House, Goudhurst, to be permanently closed and decommissioned

A prison once plagued by violence and security issues is finally set to close for good.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced in January 2015 inmates at HMP Blantyre House in Goudhurst were to be moved out temporarily for refurbishment work to take place.

Officials said emphatically in a statement that the Category C/D semi-open resettlement prison was "not being closed" and that it was expected to be back in use later that year.

Blantyre House Prison, Horden, Goudhurst.Picture: Martin Apps
Blantyre House Prison, Horden, Goudhurst.Picture: Martin Apps

However, now, more than four years on, villagers living near the 122-prisoner facility have received a letter explaining how the site will indeed be permanently shut and decommissioned.

The letter, seen by KentOnline, reads: "I am writing to inform you that a decision has been made about the future of HMP Blantyre House.

"As you know it was temporarily closed in 2015, with reviews taking place periodically to assess its place within the future prison estate.

"It has now been decided that the prison will be permanently closed and decommissioned."

The buildings themselves on the outskirts of Goudhurst are located in a country house which was taken over by the Prison Commission in 1954, having previously operated as a children's home.

It was once a detention centre for young offenders before converting to a resettlement prison for long-term prisoners, and was amalgamated with East Sutton Park in 2007.

Blantyre House Prison, Goudhurst. Picture by Matthew Walker
Blantyre House Prison, Goudhurst. Picture by Matthew Walker

The letter continued: "We will be seeking to sell the land once the decommissioning process has been completed.

"We have yet to develop a time scale for the sale of HMP Blantyre House but you may begin to see a small number of surveyors on the grounds, completing surveys and assessments.

"The survey work should not cause you any disruption but if you see anything at all that concerns you, please do get in touch.

"The decommissioning of the prison may take some time but we will keep you informed once information becomes available."

In 2016, it emerged that the MoJ had applied to use Blantyre House for the next five years as a training facility for prison and probation staff.

The prison gained a level of notoriety in recent years, however, with a total of 10 prisoners, including murderers and a robber, known to have absconded from the site between 2007 and 2015.

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.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “A decision has been made to permanently close and decommission HMP Blantyre House.

"We will be seeking to sell the land once the decommissioning process has been completed.”

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