01 October 1999
Prison farm at risk after review

by David Green

A FARM run on commercial lines by the inmates of a prison is under threat following a Home Office review.

The 486ha (1200-acre) arable and grassland farm attached to North Sea Camp, an open prison on the Lincolnshire coast, has been farmed by inmates since 1935.

The review identified the prison for possible closure and, while a final decision will not be made until the New Year, the future of the farm is now uncertain.

Local MP, Sir Richard Body, former chairman of the Commons Agriculture Select Committeee believes that the prison and its farm should be kept open.

He has requested a meeting with Home Office minister Paul Boateng, arguing closure of the farm and prison would be a cruel blow to the local economy.

The farm provides work for 60 inmates at North Sea Camp, growing cereals, brassicas, potatoes and vining peas and tending 1000 ewes and 120 breeding sows.

Sir Richard said the farm comprised extremely fertile land claimed from the sea, mainly during the 1930s.

“I suspect that one of the factors involved is the Home Office wanting to cash in the asset of the farm which, even in todays climate, is worth a lot of money.”.

Farm manager Nigel Donnelly said the vegetables grown went to a number of prisons while the cereals went on the open market.

“If the prison is closed it is by no means certain that the farm would follow. It could still be worked from the inmates from another prison elsewhere,” he said.

Part of the farm is already under threat from an Environment Agency decision not to maintain a section of sea wall as part of a managed retreat project.

The Home Office said that major capital expenditure would be needed to bring the accommodation at North Sea Camp up to modern standards.