More than 1,300 people have signed a petition objecting to a proposed women’s custody unit in Dundee.
An application for the controversial unit submitted by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is to be debated at a meeting of the city council’s planning committee on Monday.
The council’s new executive director of city development, Robin Presswood, is recommending that approval be granted for the unit to be built in the Hilltown, subject to 23 planning conditions.
Objectors will be in the council chamber to hear the debate. The deputation will be led by local resident Tom Henney, who has led the campaign to prevent the unit being built and will also speak.
If approved by councillors,the community custody unit (CCU) will open in late 2020 on Nelson Street, at the site of the former Our Lady’s Primary School.
The complex will house up to 16 female prisoners, mainly from Dundee and the surrounding areas, who have been assessed as suitable to be re-introduced to the community.
It is hoped the new unit will reduce the risk of re-offending by maintaining the women’s links with their communities and families.
Mr Henney said today that there was strong feeling in the Hilltown area about the proposal to introduce the unit.
“So far, 1,309 people have signed the petition against the unit coming here and a further 28 letters of objection have been submitted to the city council,” he said.
“There will be a strong representation of local residents in the council chamber on Monday and I will be speaking against the application
“The feeling of everyone who has signed the petition is that it is in totally the wrong place. It will bring nothing to the community here at all. It won’t benefit the residents, shopkeepers or local businesses, nor will it do anything for the ongoing regeneration of the Hilltown.”
In his report to be heard at the meeting, Mr Presswood states the proposed development is an integral part of the Scottish Government’s strategy for dealing with women in custody.
He adds: “The design and layout responds positively to the character and amenity of the surrounding area.
“While it is inward–looking in order to create a safe, private, domestic–style living and activity environment for residents, it remains discreetly linked to the wider community through the delineation and definition between public and private areas which are a key feature of the design.
“The hub building is designed to be outward–looking, friendly and welcoming in character, featuring a degree of transparency into the main entrance foyer and adjacent space.
“The proposed external building materials pick up both the character of the traditional built fabric and the new modern development in the surrounding area.
“The design and layout is sensitive to the existing mature landscaping on the site offering a pleasant environment while allowing the buildings to integrate discreetly with the surrounding built environment.”
Mr Presswood said: “The unit will not feature overt security measures of the sort normally associated with a custodial facility.”
A spokesman for the SPS said: “We are aware of the petition and are confident that we will put measures in place to be a good neighbour in the Hilltown.
“We have held various consultations in Dundee and most people agree in principle that the unit is a good idea but not in this location.”