EFFORTS to preserve Reading Prison as an arts venue have been supported by Matt Rodda MP.

The jail has been derelict since 2013 and it has cost more than £250,000 every year to maintain and protect the site.

Community groups have hit back at plans to sell the land, owned by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), to the highest bidder for development.

Mr Rodda, MP for Reading East, has offered his support to the art and heritage community and launched a petition to turn it into an arts hub.

He said: “Reading Gaol is one of the best-known buildings in Reading. It is a vital part of our heritage and it has enormous significance both in British and world history.

“However, the MoJ announced it wants to sell Reading Gaol to the highest bidder, which puts it at risk of being redeveloped as luxury flats.

“That is why I am launching this campaign to save Reading Gaol and to help turn it into a museum and an arts hub. Please do sign the petition to help protect our heritage and celebrate our local community.”

The prison is said to be the burial place of Henry I and is where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated after being convicted of homosexual offences in 1895.

The Oscar Wilde Society has asked for the prison to be preserved to honour the poets imprisonment.

Melvin Benn, chairman of Theatre & Arts Reading (TAR), added: “We remain committed to plans for the Gaol site as an arts hub.

“The site remains a complicated one in terms of any development of it.

“We appreciate people would want to campaign that the Gaol be sold to a body that ensure the site can actively benefit Reading residents and beyond and TAR would do that.”

The MoJ permanently closed the site as part of the Government's desire to replace outdated prisons with more modern ones.

The prison was previously put forward as a one of six potential sites to take over from The Hexagon.

Visit: mattroddamp.com/stopreadinggaolselloff to sign the petition.