Westbury Region Against Prison hosts first meeting after prison site move announcement
By Harry Murtough
22 June 2020
There's one question on the minds of Westbury residents against the Northern Prison: what's changed?
In its first meeting since the state government announced the moving of the prison site, members of Westbury Region Against Prison met at the Village Green to maintain their opposition to the prison.
WRAP president Linda Poulton said members were surveyed to get their input on the new site, with about 70 attending the meeting on Monday to protest the prison.
"We were only allowed to have 80 people in total ... when restrictions lift and we can have a proper public meeting, I'd expect to see more people there," she said.
The new site for the prison will be on a 70ha piece of Crown Land 5.2km east from Westbury, as opposed to the 2.1km distance from the previous site.
"People feel like it hasn't made any difference at all," Ms Poulton said.
"It's alleviated some concerns but buy-and-large it feels like it's been shunted up the road a little bit and it will still have the same impact on how people feel about the town."
Grace Rock, a resident and member of a group supporting the prison, wrote to Corrections Minister Elise Archer supporting the move.
The letter, provided to The Examiner, said "We are extremely pleased that you took [a] very sensible approach, recognised all major issues ... and offered a well-balanced compromise to everyone."
Ms Poulton said aside from a question in the government's survey distributed to residents asking if they would support the prison further away, no indication was given about an alternate site.
"Why is it we've gone through these months not knowing there's been another site on the cards?" Ms Poulton said.
Ms Archer said a clear theme from Westbury residents and business owners during the "extensive" consultation process was that moving the site further away was preferable.
She said the original Valley Central Site was always only the government's preferred site.
"The Social and Economic Impact Study stated that a number of respondents indicated their level of support for the Northern Regional Prison would increase if their issues and concerns were being addressed," Ms Archer said.
"Many indicated that they would prefer a different location, away from the Westbury town centre."