1 November 2014

English Heritage and Shepton Prison

So, it seems the two bids from two Shepton Mallet locals have been rejected by the Ministry of Justice and the bidder that they are negotiating with is....................
Well, the mystery bidder hasn't been disclosed to the public, I believe this is to protect commercially sensitive information.

I don't feel this is very fair to our community and I feel the process should be a little more transparent. The only way for us to keep a tab on what's going on at the moment, is to look at any planning applications that might come through.

In the meantime though, secrecy annoys me, so I have been trawling the internet for more information. After a good few hours this is what I believe is happening, English Heritage, are working with Mendip Council and Purcell Architects, in their negotiations. Afterall, the prison is a Grade 2 listed building which means it is of special interest and can't be adapted any old how.
Looking at the English Heritage's portfolio of past projects, I can see they often create innovative solutions and challenging concepts. Their projects seem to be carried out in sympathy to the original building and sometimes additions are in complete contrast to the original, which can look stunning, or could perhaps can look overwhelmingly challenging. Their developments seen to embrace the design ethos of the present, as well as respecting the past.

I feel confident in their ability to create something great. I am not confident in their ability, at the moment, to create something that will inherently improve our community, unless the process is more transparent and there is a public consultation.

English Heritage are experienced at working with the local authorities and their teams to create visionary solutions but I for one, would like to know what their vision is in this instance.

Are they going to turn the whole lot into homes, or will it be homes and mixed leisure use, or will they do the right thing and ensure that the history of the prison is harnessed to create a destination, worthy of a visit from holiday makers, visitors and locals? We really do have a wonderful heritage here in Shepton Mallet, embodied by that prison, HM Cornhill.

The prison closing has adversely affected the local economy with job losses and a knock on effect for the High Street too. Let's hope that the problem, can now be turned into part of the solution.
What do you think? Please let me know.
Update: November 6th 2014. Since writing this blog, The Shepton Mallet Journal has had confirmation from English Heritage, that they did not bid themselves but have only assisted in the bidding process. The Ministry of Justice is still not revealing who they are in negotiations with. Don't we have a right to know?
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