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Rainham joy at jailbreak

PUBLISHED: 11:42 01 May 2009 | UPDATED: 10:39 09 July 2010

CAMPIAGNERS were claiming victory this week after the government announced Rainham would not be the site of a new 1,500-offender prison. But the celebrations were tempered after it was revealed one of the prisons would still be on our doorstep; in Barking

CAMPIAGNERS were claiming victory this week after the government announced Rainham would not be the site of a new 1,500-offender prison.

But the celebrations were tempered after it was revealed one of the prisons would still be on our doorstep; in Barking and Dagenham.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw told MPs in the House of Commons on Monday that proposals for three titan prisons across the country - of which Beam Reach had been shortlisted - had been scrapped.

Instead, there will be five 1,500-offender prisons, with the first two of these in Beam Park West in Barking and Dagenham, and Runwell in Essex.

The news comes two years after Beam Reach was first named as a potential prison site, prompting a 6,000-strong march through Rainham in April 2007.

As recently as February this year, the Ministry of Justice was still naming Beam Reach as a potential prison site.

This week, Hornchurch and Rainham MP James Brokenshire was celebrating the removal of a "big black cloud" over Rainham. He said: "This is a landmark day for the future of Rainham. Everyone who backed the campaign to stop Rainham Jail can take credit for this decision."

"Plans for a jail at Beam Reach have hampered development and raised serious questions over the future of this key site. We've now got to get on with the urgent task of harnessing the potential for Beam Reach to create new jobs, to attract investment and help transform the outlook for the local economy."

He added that the new prison just over our border was still a concern, and it could effect traffic in nearby Rainham.

Havering Council Leader Cllr Michael White also had reservations about the announcement.

He said: "It's a victory for our campaign because it's not in Havering."

"However, I'm not quite sure that a 1,500-people prison on our border is what we'd welcome.

"We'll be arguing that the benefits go to the south Dagenham community, such as funding for transport. I'm trying to ensure they don't forget Beam Park Station - that will open up all of Beam Reach for economic development."

Graham Williamson, Chairman of the Adamsgate Action Group which has campaigned vigorously against the prison, criticised Barking and Dagenham Council for "falling asleep on their watch" and "letting down everyone in the region."

He said: "I'm pleased they (the government) aren't taking away the Beam Reach section which is intended for high quality employment. But it's a qualified welcome."

"I do wonder if the negative of a prison so close will still affect Beam Reach.

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