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Open-air venue plans under way at Shrewsbury's former Dana prison

By Aimee Jones | Shrewsbury | Shrewsbury entertainment | Published:

Part of Shrewsbury prison's outer wall is being removed to create a new huge new outdoor entertainment space.

Work has started at the former Dana prison, in Shrewsbury, to remove a portion of the outer wall to create an entertainment space

Bulldozers have moved in at the Dana to take down a portion of the wall.

Joel Campbell, chief executive of Jailhouse Tours, said it will open up an extra acre of space on site - making it the second biggest outdoor entertainment space in Shrewsbury after the Quarry.

"Many of these temporary buildings were installed in the 1980s and there's about 20 in total, some of which are two storeys high," Mr Campbell said.

"Once they are cleared and taken out, it will give us another acre of space and suddenly it will feel massive."

The initial works, which will also include removing the modern kitchen extension, will create more space at the jail and allow it to be seen from new viewpoints - some of which have been hidden away for more than three decades.

Mr Campbell said it will allow Jailhouse Tours, as well as other groups and businesses, to host major outdoor events.

"We really want to utilise the space far more and have different activities and events," he said.

"It would make a great outdoor cinema area. We also want to create a bigger outdoor play area and have chairs and tables outside of the cafe when it is nice.

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"This will make it more accessible and provide a brilliant venue space for the town. It’s been a long time in the planning and everybody involved is excited about the next phase in the prison’s life.”

The Dana, which was built in 1877, housed 2,600 offenders shortly before it closed in 2013.

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The Category C prison was revealed to be the second most overcrowded in England and Wales.

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It was bought by Trevor Osborne who revealed big plans to turn the former prison into student accommodation, flats, office space, and potentially a restaurant.

Shropshire Council's central planning committee unanimously passed the proposals in 2017.

Jailhouse Tours, which gives visitors and insight into life behind bars, moved into the Dana in 2015 while the planning application was considered.

But Mr Campbell said there is no plans for Jailhouse Tours to move out any time soon.

"We will be here for the foreseeable future and that would be quite a long time," he added.

"We only expected to be here for a year and that was four years ago. There is still so much opportunity for us here, as well as for other businesses and people in the town.

"There are still plans to utilise the back section of the prison for accommodation but the listed buildings will very much remain as heritage assets and tourist attractions."

Jailhouse Tours and Aislin's Funhouse will remain open throughout the initial work which is expected to take six weeks.

Last week, Shrewsbury-based Morris & Co was granted planning permission to build 10 apartments on the car park.

The scheme will see the former prison visitors’ reception demolished and the apartment block built, accompanied by car parking, cycle parking space and access.

Aimee Jones

By Aimee Jones
@aimeejones_star

Senior reporter based at the Shropshire Star's Shrewsbury office, covering Shrewsbury, North Shropshire and South Shropshire.

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