PLANS to refurbish and repair balustrades at Usk Prison have been scuppered again after the Ministry of Justice lost an appeal because the building is Grade II listed.

Last year Monmouthshire County Council refused plans submitted by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to refurbish and redecorate part of Her Majesty’s Prison Usk on Maryport Street because the “impact of the proposals fail to preserve the building and features within it that are of nationally important special architectural, historical and evidential interest”.

The plans also included repairs to the existing balustrades, as well as installing a secondary balustrade system to improve loading and stability.

The MoJ appealed this decision but the planning inspector agreed with the county council’s original decision to refuse the application, citing the impact on the “special architectural and historic interest”.

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The MoJ argued that the balustrades at the prison have a “high evidential value” and that “many Victorian balustrades having been replaced elsewhere such as at HMP Cardiff”.

The planning officer agreed that the “design of the balustrades contribute to the overall regularity and symmetry of the wings”.

The main part of the prison has three wings – A, B and C. The corridors are lined with cells, with the ones on the first floor served by an iron balcony walkway.

The balcony is supported on iron brackets and has “a slender iron balustrade”.

The proposed work, included restoring the balustrade and “putting right previous unsympathetic repairs” and creating a secondary balustrade system so the load capacity of the walkways could be increased.

The work to install the secondary balustrade system would result in “tens, if not hundreds of holes” from drilling.

The planning appeal officer said: “I am not persuaded that the damage the works would cause to the existing, historic fabric could be concealed were the secondary balustrade removed.

“I appreciate that this is a prison, but the proposed works would result in significant harm to the building's aesthetic and the light, airy feel to the wings.”

The MOJ did commission a structural survey of the balustrades, which concluded that their “structural capacity is not sufficient for a modern prison environment and warns of a risk of failure, particularly under extreme loading conditions”.

The officer said: “The building is grade II listed and the hand railing and walkway appears to be a significant feature of the original design. 

“Based on this the impact of any repairs, strengthening or new construction on the historic fabric would have to be considered and justified. 

“Part of this justification would need to be a discussion regarding the required loading and why this could not be relaxed in this instance.”