HORRIFIED residents are worried that sex offenders will be able to spy into their gardens after plans to build a “monstrous" super-prison behind their homes.

The furious neighbours are fighting a proposal to build the four-storey prison in Gartree, on the outskirts of historic Market Harborough, Leicestershire.



The plans hoping to build the massive prison on Government land next to existing HMP Gartree were unanimously rejected by Harborough District Council’s  planning committee in April.

However, within weeks the Ministry of Justice stated it would battle to overturn the decision through an appeal.

Outraged Karen Grady, 59, is one resident who is determined to fight the proposal.

She said: “There will be a huge concrete mess, four storeys high, at the bottom of my beautiful garden.

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“It will be horrendous. It’s going to block out my sunshine and my light – my garden will be a dark and miserable place.”

Mum-of-three Karen, 59, added: “It will ruin or view, and create such a din in this quiet, peaceful neighbourhood. It will be monstrous.

“And, alarmingly, the prisoners who are lifers and will include killers and sex offenders will be able to watch me in the hot in my own back garden! “

Karen and retired partner Kevin Dowden have joined forces with incensed neighbours to form an action group to fight the new planned super-prison.

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They argue that the 1,700 inmate institution will tower over them and will be a “blot on the landscape.”

She has invited planning officials to visit her home of 34 years where the Ministry of Justice is hoping to erect the controversial jail.

Karen wants inspectors making the final decision to see the impact it will have, saying: “They need to understand the sheer scale of it. Why would they want to put a prison here? It will create an eyesore."

She added: “I’m not in prison, I've done nothing wrong  but I feel like I will be with this in my back yard.”

Her partner Kevin, 67, a former road builder for Leicestershire County Council is equally alarmed by the proposals, saying: “It will be like Blackpool illuminations.

"It will light up the sky but not in a pleasant way, it will be awful.”

Showing The Sun around his meticulously kept garden where he has a large pond with coy carp, where grass snakes and newts roam free, and where he and Karen enjoy regular stints relaxing in their hot tub, he groaned: “We’ll see and hear prisoners shouting and it will affect our privacy big time. They’ll see us too.

“I’m retired, I’ve worked hard and my pleasure is sitting in my lovely garden and going in the hot tub.

“I’m a keen gardener and this is my domain. I like to sit here at night having a BBQ with Karen.”

Kevin added that he thought the planned jail would also affect house prices and spoil the area.

Their friends and neighbours, fellow campaigners, Jo Asher and partner Dave Burden live in the same street, Welland Avenue, even closer to the site.


Jo 46, an advertising business executive, said: “This is such a lovely area for children to grow up in and there are walks on the doorstep for dog owners.”

She sighed: “Look at this beautiful countryside, it will be ruined. It makes me feel physically sick."

She pointed to stakes in the field behind her garden which she fears are marking out the boundary for the first planned block.

Jo continued: “The MOJ assured us it had carried out research adhering to the proper criteria, insisting they couldn't find another suitable site but we’ve done our research and we can find another another place not backing onto all our homes.

“There are brown hares, badgers all sorts of wildlife which in the fields behind and their natural habitat will be destroyed.

"They’re trying to sell it to us, saying oh there will be a state of the art 4G football pitch and medical centre. But it’s for the prisoners – what about a decent pitch for the school kids?”

And aerospace engineer Dave, 57, said: “The prisoners will be laughing their heads off, thinking crime pays, and they’ll have the best view out while we’ll all be looking at big brick walls

“They'll have a better life than some people on the outside do.”

Jo said they could see the current jail in the distance but chose not to live “right bang behind a jail as current residents in nearby streets do.

She wondered how staff will manage a bigger prison "when they can't get enough workers for a smaller one".

Her partner also claimed there were serious issues at the jail which authorities turned a blind eye to.

Dave said: “Have you heard of throw overs? Well that happens there. Prisoners get their mates to literally throw stuff over – drugs and whatever – in bags and tennis balls.

“They even used a dead pigeon to stuff with illegal substances, they are very resourceful.

“One resident Bob heard drones flying over which may have been up to no good.”

It would be a monstrosity of a building and would turn the area surrounding the prison into an inner-city slum.”

Karen told how she had been to do a recce on of a new £253 super-prison HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, which opened in February for the first of 1,680 inmates.

An alarmed Karen said: “This one will be even that that. We went to have a look at and is colossal. It will be an eyesore and we’re really worried that it will be approved but will do  everything we can to block it.

“It’s going to be absolutely massive, it’s really not suitable for the area. It would be a monstrosity of a building and would turn the area surrounding the prison into an inner-city slum.”

She added that houses around the area are privately owned and cost about £250,000 which is "more affordable housing than other villages", but fears this could change.

An MOJ plot of land behind their houses in where garages leases to local has already been demolished which residents fear will pave the way for a new car park for the prison.

They worry a new road will be also created behind rows of semi-detached homes and that they may lose a row of tall mature trees.

The plans were rejected by district councillors because they contradicted local planning documents and over concerns by opponents over the impact on roads and the local environment.

The Gartree Action Group has been opposing the scheme since it was first announced.

Member David Hickie said: “We do not need this prison, there are better places it could go.  It would ruin the countryside and increase traffic on country roads which already see 1,400 cars a day due to the existing prison. 

“Plus, Harborough area has high employment, why can’t the prison go somewhere in need of local jobs.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice previously said: "We expect there will be an increase in demand for prison places as the activity of our courts system continues to ramp up to full operating capacity following the national restrictions due to Covid.

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"The increasing numbers of police, inline with the Prime Minister's commitment to recruit 20,000 additional officers, is also likely to contribute to a higher prison population, and we therefore believe that creating 18,000 additional prison places will help to mitigate pressure on prison places in England and Wales in the coming years.”

An appeal hearing over the plans for the prison is set to take place in October.

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