FEARS a new jail rumoured for Tamworth would send real estate values crashing and crime rates soaring could be unfounded, if the experience of another NSW community is any indication.
The small town of Wellington, located 50km south-east of Dubbo, is home to one of the state’s newest prisons, with a $125 million, 600-bed maximum security correctional facility opening in 2007.
The jail was – and still is – staunchly opposed by some residents concerned that its presence would attract so-called “undesirables” to the region, causing a rise in crime, drug use and a drop in house prices.
However, Wellington Business Chamber president Ian Law told The Leader that he believed many of the potential negatives raised by the opposition group had failed to materialise.
“We had a group as well that were very vocal with complaints ranging from things like excessive lighting to undesirables coming into the community,” Mr Law said.
“Wellington has actually learnt to live with it. There doesn’t seem to be an adverse impact from having a jail. Real estate prices are actually pretty buoyant and houses in Wellington are certainly selling.”
Mr Law, who has been a member of the chamber for the past four years, said it could be argued, though, that some of the positives promised by the state government had not been fully realised.
“A number of local people are working in the jail and there has been some jobs created for locals, but not as many as anticipated,” he said.
The Oxley Ln Opposition Jail Group, comprising residents surrounding a 360ha parcel of council-owned land near the airport suspected to have been earmarked by the state government, was formed earlier in the month.
At a meeting on July 7, which attracted 53 concerned landowners, a local valuer warned their property prices could fall by as much as 50 per cent if a prison was built there.
However, James Carmody, of MVS Valuers, said it would be difficult to accurately gauge a prison’s impact on prices, given it was “not an issue that raises its head regularly” and there was likely to be little existing data.
“There would be an expected reduction in value of properties in the immediate area, but there would have to be a study of other areas to quantify a percentage,” he said. “I’d be hesitant to put any figure on it until the studies are done.”
Tamworth’s state and local political leaders say they have seen nothing from the state government indicating a new jail is planned for the city.