Doubt has been cast on ambitious proposals to transform the borough’s prison after suggestions were raised it had problems with asbestos.
Academic Dr David Scott, who is one of the most prominent voices in the campaign against the rebuilding and possible expansion of HMP Hindley, is seeking urgent clarification from the authorities over the state of the buildings.
He has now submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to get answers from the authorities on whether a huge and expensive clean-up will be needed.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would only say that asbestos was not holding up any planning application to transform HMP Hindley.
Dr Scott had wondered why Wigan Council had not received any plans more than two months after the Government had announced the prison investment.
He said: “I have been informed that although in the 1990s asbestos was removed from the roofs of A,B,C and D wings it is still highly prevalent in a number of buildings.
“There are immediate concerns here about the demolition of the buildings, which would obviously disturb any asbestos which it seems highly likely is still there.
“What are the health and safety and cost implications around this going to be? It’s something to monitor.”
A public meeting on the possible expansion of HMP Hindley was also taking place this week at Bickershaw Labour Club.
Dr Scott and other speakers on Thursday night addressed possible connections between austerity and the decision to create more prison places by ministers.
However, he said it was equally important that Wiganers living closest to the jail got the chance to have their say.
Dr Scott had written to local councillors inviting them to attend and a statement from Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue was expected to be read out.
Dr Scott said: “It’s absolutely crucial for the local people of Bickershaw to raise their voices at this point so they can then feed back into the different democratic processes at the council such as planning.
“When we leafletted about the meeting people didn’t really want a large prison but we need to know what the local community thinks about it and how strongly they feel.”