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Britain's Biggest Prison Could Be Built Just Four Miles From

2024.04.13 20:05

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Britain's biggest prison could be built just four miles from Jamie Oliver's £6million rural pad in England's most photographed village.

The TV chef and his family face having their lives 'turned upside down' by the huge construction 'on the doorstep' of his mansion.  

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) wants to build two 'mega jails' that can hold 3,430 male inmates on the site of a former RAF airbase at Wethersfield, in Essex.

Locals in the nearby idyllic village of Finchingfield, where the TV chef lives, have hit out at the plans as being 'almost the worst place you could find a prison'.

If they come to fruition, the plans would see Category B and Category C prisons built on the 800-acre site close to an area renowned for its picture-perfect views.

The MoJ has launched a consultation on the plans, but has been met by stiff resistance from people living in the village and the nearby village of Wethersfield.

A computer generated image shows the potential layout of the proposed 'mega jail' on the site of former RAF Wethersfield

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (pictured here with his wife and children) lives in a townhouse near the former RAF base

Oliver and his family moved into a £6million mansion (pictured) near the site with their five children several years ago

Finchingfield brings in tourists from a afar who come to enjoy the small settlements laid back and historic buildings, which also served as the setting for BBC's Lovejoy series.

Houses in the village sell for an average price of £425,000, making it one of the most expensive in the entire country, with celebrity chef Oliver moving into a historic townhouse in the area with his wife Jools and their five children five years ago.

He often films himself preparing dishes for his TV shows in the garden of the Grade One listed property, and has often posted pictures with his wife at their home.

Since then has had to contend with a scheme to increase the number of beavers in the area in a bid to reduce flooding and plans to develop a new housing estate that other residents feared would blight their 'chocolate-box' village.

Oliver is said to have been made aware of the prison plans, but has avoided making any public comment, despite Jools apparently being friends with some of the protesters.

Some locals have speculated that he may not want to be seen as a NIMBY (not in my back yard) protester, particularly in the light of his work employing ex-prisoners at his former Fifteen restaurants in London and Cornwall.

It would be built miles from Finchingfield (pictured), which is England's most photographed village

The airfield at Wethersfield was an RAF base for Spitfires during World War Two before becoming an American bomber base towards the end of the conflict.

It later became home to American nuclear bombers during the Cold War before being taken over as the national headquarters of the UK's Ministry of Defence Police.

The huge 800 acre site has become surplus to MoD requirements with the MoD police moving recently to RAF Wyton near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

The prison plans were first revealed 17-months-ago in letters sent by the MoJ to hundreds of households.

The letters stressed that no firm proposals had been drawn up, and insisted that the plans were simply being put out for local consultation.

No planning application has yet been submitted and it has since been suggested by MoJ officials that the idea for prisons on the site is a 'back up' plan if needed in the future.

The MoJ is instead said to be concentrating on trying to get consent to build new prisons next to three exiting jails in Lancashire, Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire.

Campaign group Stop Wethersfield Airfield Prison (SWAP) and Wethersfield Airfield Scrutiny Committee (WASC) have both raised concerns about the impact it will have on their villages and how viable it would be to build the giant prison in such a rural area.

Alan MacKenzie who chairs SWAP said local sources suggested that Home Office officials had visited the site to assess it, and that it might be used for refugees from this summer.

He said: 'Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools are well known in the area.

This is his family home up here and he is often out and about.

'There is no doubt that the building of two mega prisons on their doorstep will have a major effect on him.

'It will turn life upside down for everyone, including him.
I doubt that he is going to be very happy about it.


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