Residents slam slammer plan

A COMMUNITY group fearful plans are afoot to build a new jail housing up to 600 prisoners in Tamworth will hold its first official meeting next week.

The Oxley Lane Opposition Jail Group claims to have credible information that land near the airport has been earmarked for a new correctional facility.

More than 50 residents from Oxley Ln and the surrounding area held a meeting on July 7 to discuss their concerns over the rumoured development.

A valuer warned the Oxley Ln residents that history showed property values were likely to plummet, by as much as half, if the prison went ahead.

The committee formed at that meeting then met with Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson a week later to make clear their opposition to the jail.

A committee member, who declined to be named before the group nominates a spokesperson next week, said it had been a productive meeting.

“Mr Anderson, to his credit, said he’d approached ministers, commissioners and they’ve all said nothing’s planned for Tamworth,” he said.

“He said on record that he’s here to protect the jobs of everybody in this community, but also to reflect the community’s feelings about it.”

Last month, a source told The Leader that a 360ha council-owned parcel of land on Oxley Ln had been identified as the state government’s preferred site.

But Tamworth’s political leaders have steadfastly maintained they are not aware of any concrete plans for a new jail to replace Tamworth Correctional Centre.

Tamworth’s deputy mayor Russell Webb said he was well aware of the rumours, but insisted there was nothing to have a conversation with the community about.

“The council has not sat around the table and formally considered any approach in relation to building a new jail in Tamworth,” he said.

“I would be happy for the state government to come to us so we could actually hear what they’re thinking and we could then talk about what is factual and what is not factual.

“I’m quite open to listening to what opportunities that would bring, but until we’ve actually got a proposal that we can look at, and make some determinations on the positive and negative impacts, we’ve got nothing to talk about.”

The medium-security jail for male offenders, located on the corner of Dean and Johnston streets, is the considered the poorest-performing in the state.

It costs $182 a night to keep an inmate in the ageing Tamworth facility - about $60 a night more expensive that in the state’s newer prisons.

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