Last Chance to Save the Prison

Over 1200 people signed the petition asking CDC to grant more time to consider the local bid for the purchase of the Old Prison. Without the petition and public outcry, the site would already be sold. However whilst the Petition was out voted CDC councillors voted to ensure the group considering the purchase bids should give strong weighting to continuing public access to the Old Prison and consider the heritage and community impacts.

The District Council decided that they will be making a decision on their preferred purchaser on 28 March…..follow this link to find out what you can do to help save the prison…

13 Reasons to save the prison.pdf

Diana Ray

Northleach Prison Site

All, I thought I should update you following the February 28th CDC meeting. As you will know, Diana Ray’s motion for time to organise a rescue bid failed – 17 – 22. But not a bad result in the circumstances! I also put forward a motion.
The text of my motion was as follows; “This council recognises that the Northleach Prison site and the Lloyd Baker collection (including other rural heritage items on site) are important aspects of our local and national heritage and that, in considering the bids received for purchase of the site, it must;

(i) take account of and give due weight to the public wish to preserve that heritage and ensure continued public access to the Prison site and to the Lloyd Baker collection in addition to considering the cash value of any bid and
(ii) seek to minimise any adverse economic impact on the local economy.” It was proposed by the Portfolio holder, Cllr Dare, that my motion would be supported subject to amendment.

The amended form of motion (after further amendment on the issue of public access which at first was wholly excluded from Cllr Dare’s proposal) was as follows;

Para 1 – no change then –
(i) take account of and give due weight to the public wish to preserve the heritage of the Northleach Prison site and the Lloyd Baker collection, whilst considering the cash value of bids received,
(ii) seek to minimise any adverse economic impact on the local community
(iii) acknowledge the public wish to see continued public access to the prison site and to the Lloyd Baker collection.That motion was passed 33 – 2. At the same time, I was invited to join the assessment panel. I was also told by the Corporate Services director, Frank Wilson, that he would seek to develop a set of criteria against which to judge the bids in the light of the requirements of the motion to consider factors other than price.So, at the very least, there is a strong moral backdrop against which to asses the bids which will not be assessed on price alone. One can be cynical and say this is no more than a device to secure the same end and sell to the highest commercial bidder. However, I shall at least be in the room and part of the discussion and will do my best to secure the best outcome for all.

Chris Hancock
Cotswold District Councillor
Northleach with Eastington Town Council

Campaign To Save The Old Prison & Rural Heritage Collection

An overwhelming 1200 people who live in our district, or love the Cotswolds, signed the petition asking for time (up to December 31st 2012) for a rescue plan and a re-think on the fate of the Old Prison site, and the nationally important rural collections in CDC care.

On February 28th, at 10 am, at the Council Chamber, Trinity Road, Cirencester, GL7 1PX , all 44 councillors of Cotswold District Council will have the chance to debate whether to give the time, and encourage a rescue package.

Please come to CDC at Cirencester on 28 February and back the call for more time and to favour a rescue. Pulhams’ Coaches are providing coaches to go to CDC, picking up at the Old Prison at 9.10 a.m and the market square in Northleach at 9.20 a.m. First come first served and prompt departure.

Support the call to CDC to agree to give time for proper, open consultation on options for the site and the heritage artefacts. In the last few weeks a rescue plan has begun to develop that will give CDC some money. As well as caring for the fate of the heritage and getting the site thriving again, it will work closely with the community to benefit the area. A detailed vision for the site is being developed to carefully achieve community benefits and links to the needs of the Town. It needs time.

Please write urgently to the CDC and our 44 District Councillors

Please write from your own perspective about what matters to you. See the democracy section on the CDC page.

Make sure you write to your own District Councillor, and if possible copy to the portfolio holder, Cllr Barry Dare, and Cllr Lynden Stowe the Council and Conservative group leader, Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Paul Hodgkinson; and the CDC staff responsible for making recommendations. CDC Chief executive, David Neudegg, and Frank Wilson (Strategic Director of Resources) at CDC, Trinity Road, Cirencester, GL71PX.

Please send a copy of all correspondence to Cllr Chris Hancock ward councillor for Northleach local area. Great Union House, Market Place, Northleach GL54 3EJ.

Issues you might raise with Cotswold District Council

Community interests do matter
  • Best value can favour community benefits, heritage care and education. CDC does not have to choose the highest bidder- government rules allow it discretion for community and heritage benefits. Big Society, and CDC’s own policy is to let communities have a say about major public assets and how to get the best benefits for local people. The Localism bill comes in to force in April.
  • Ask CDC to give favourable status to the rescue bids that commit to well managed community benefits and keep the heritage in good heart and accessible to the public
  • What safeguards are in place for the House of Correction in future? Marketing this theme needs care, for example Little Dean is now a Museum Of Torture.
  • When it’s gone it’s gone- it’s at the Heart of the Cotswolds and a jewel in our heritage. Being on the cross roads of 2 major roads this place is very accessible to locals (on the main bus routes) why let it go?
  • The educational value is immense and so relevant to the curriculum today- our children study human rights, citizenship, history, environment and rural skills.
The Historic Building
  • The Old Prison has been in public hands over 220 years and is of international heritage importance. A rescue plan would see the grade 2 star listed building refurbished and preserved for future generations. It was built as a “House of Correction” in 1790; by a Gloucestershire philanthropist, Sir George Onesiphorus Paul, horrified at conditions in Gloucester gaol. It was groundbreaking and innovative in its day and influenced design and conditions in over 23 other prisons not just in England but in the Commonwealth and USA too.
  • Public access is so vital and must be guaranteed in future- some cells and the court room are still visible today and records of the treadmill and rations, bring alive the way justice and punishment were dealt with in hard times of the rural past. A rich archive of documents is associated with the House of Correction early years. Later, a national scandal in the 1840s was widely reported with a Royal investigation and articles in the Times including letters associated with Charles Dickens. All the bound court session reports are still part of the records in CDC care
Home for rural heritage collections
  • CDC got the site for free with the obligation to care for and showcase the nationally important LLoyd Baker Collection. The Treasury accepted the wonderful agricultural collection for the nation in lieu of death duties – it represents a life time of collecting items from rural life before mechanisation. With a big grant from GCC, CDC got the site for free. CDC signed up to all the legal obligations for the care of over 650 items, which have to be accessible to the public. These legal obligations on CDC will continue after the site is sold. Many items are fragile and at risk- the rescue plan would keep the collection on show, and on site.
  • The rural collections include many additional artefacts special to the local area and put into CDC care. Local families in Northleach area offered tools such as the wheel wrights working tools display still on site. These reflect many skills still essential for our buildings and landscape today. If the Old Prison is sold, what will happen to the thousands of items in addition to the Lloyd Baker collection?
Is CDC reputation on heritage at risk?
  • Waste Department! If the site is sold, is CDC really proposing to put all our fragile  heritage items under the waste department? What will be the cost of relocating and caring for the rural collections to meet Treasury obligations?
  • What message does this give about CDC as a safe pair of hands for our heritage and its reputation? Would anyone ever put anything of value in the hands of CDC?
  • Secrecy about artefacts at risk-? Is there a proper inventory? Are proper disposal procedures being followed in accordance with Museum best practice?
Democracy gap
  • There has been no public consultation about the sale of the Old Prison at Northleach. It’s not just important to Northleach- it affects our whole District, this is why an overwhelming 1200 people from the Cotswolds and beyond, signed the petition asking for time for a rescue package and a re-think. Let local people see the options and propose ways to ensure the best outcome for our area.
  • Secrecy All the cabinet, and full council meetings, about the Old Prison and the rural heritage collections have been held in secret closed sessions, binding all councillors to silence; and stopping tax payers knowing how decisions are made.
  • All papers about the Old prison and collections, put before councillors in July 2011 and cabinet in November 2010 were confidential and withheld from residents of our district. With the help of our MP and the Freedom of Information Act, the July 2011 papers that councillors had to base their decisions on, are now in the public domain in the public interest. The full set can be seen on the town website and Northleach
Town Council offices,
  • These papers show that the data and information before councillors did not consider the impacts on our area and town, and did not consider the obligations and commitments made to the Treasury and local families concerning the rural collections, and did not consider the effects on our tourism industry and educational importance of the heritage at the site. No conditions or restrictions were considered for the fate of the site, No proper plan was made for the rural heritage items currently on site, except for a proposal to put them in the care of the CDC waste department
Economy impact of “asset transfer” and closure
  • Tourism is a major industry for the whole District and sustaining footfall is vital. Tourists and people searching their ancestors find this site a great draw. The footfall of over 20,000 a year (mainly adults), when the rural collection museum was flourishing and properly managed to benefit the local area. The “Escape to the Cotswolds” exhibition has been open just 2 seasons- it encourages visitors to explore the local area and wider AONB and stay. This increases footfall to the town and local businesses across the area.
  • Avoid harm – we call for a proper costing of the impact of losing the Old Prison from public access and control. What will be the economic harm and benefits of each of the bids on our area, especially Northleach town? Should CDC consider imposing conditions and covenants?
  • What is CDC’s asset transfer policy- what site will they purchase with the money? Proceeds from any sale of public assets have to go to capital items not running costs. In July 2011 CDC decided it will use the money from the Old Prison site to purchase another property. At a time of near recession which part of the district will benefit from CDC investing- and why put Northleach at risk of harm? Why not let local people see the options and avoid harmful consequences?

Diana Ray


An overwhelming 1200 names have signed the petition started by Diana Ray of Cold Aston, forcing Cotswold District Council to re-debate the sale of the Old Prison.
Diana now needs your help to take your views to CDC’s meeting and to support the rescue package through Cotswold Conservation Board and Friends of the Cotswolds who have submitted a bid to CDC to purchase the building.
For more information, or if you can’t attend but want to help, contact:
Neil Fletcher Tel: 07731 901404

Northleach Prison – Sale postponed.

Good News!
The petition asking Cotswold District Council (CDC) to postpone the sale of the Old Prison for 12 months and re think was submitted on January 12. Thanks to efforts of so many local champions the e-petition and paper petition combined have reached over 1200 signatures.

Over 400 from Northleach itself, but many too from nearby small villages, and right across the district and nearby areas. During Christmas we carefully checked to make sure that within the signatures we have well exceeded the 850 within the CDC boundary to qualify a call for a debate by CDC full council.

I am waiting to hear what the CDC process will be. This is a great achievement by the Northleach community as a first step.

Diana Ray

Help save The Old Prison at Northleach

Proposed sale of the Old Prison at Northleach
Help Save it by Signing the Online Petition!

The Old Prison 3

Cotswold District Council are to sell off the Old Prison at Northleach – Here’s what you can do to help save the building for the Community:

  1. Write letters to the people who can influence  the decision and also ask CDC to give more time. There are viable alternatives that would keep the site focussed on benefiting our district and local community for the long term. Contacts for all District Councillors can be found here:
    The leader of CDC, Cllr Lynden Stowe and the CDC Chief Executive, David Neudegg can be reached at: Cotswold District Council, Trinity Road, Cirencester, GL7 1PX. Please copy your letters and emails to Northleach Town Clerk at The Westwoods Centre, Bassett Road, Northleach, GL54 3QJ.
  2. Sign the petition asking CDC to give enough time for proper consultation about the future of this site, and time for a rescue package. There are copies available throughout the town.Also there is an online e-petition on the Cotswold district council web site:
    Re-think proposed sale of the Old Prison at Northleach –give the community time.
  3. Encourage others to write and follow what’s happening and sign the online petition.

Diana Ray

Editors Note:
Diana Ray, lives in Cold Aston, comes from a farming background and owns Living Green in Bourton.  She is not a member of any political party and has no links with the Cotswold Conservation Board. Along with other local people she has put together a summary of some of the key issues about the Old Prison and steps people could take right now to save it.  This is not just an issue for Northleach- people across the district are starting to voice out their concerns at the proposed sell off. This flagship building has a great future for the community. Diana’s family gave some of the artefacts in the rural collection, and it is in her mother’s memory that  she is taking a stand about what happens to the Old Prison at Northleach. She feels strongly that more time is needed for options to be developed. In Northleach a petition is circulating and is already gaining many signatures – it simply asks CDC to postpone the sale process to allow the community more time for better options to happen. Please sign and take part in supporting a better outcome.

Writing letters to let CDC know what issues matter could encourage a change of heart and is highly recommended.