Reading East MP Matt Rodda has been campaigning to save Reading Gaol and have it transformed into an arts and heritage site for the community.

This week, he writes exclusively to Reading Chronicle readers:

Reading Gaol has stood as an imposing landmark for 175 years, yet it could be approaching a turning point in its recent history.

The Government’s own preferred bidder for the site dropped out last week, in what seems to be a clear sign that the business case for redeveloping the gaol as luxury flats no longer stands up.

This plan would have been out of keeping with this unique historic building and I now hope that the Government will reassess the site and think again and that Ministers will support plans to save the gaol and turn it in to an arts and heritage hub.

I have written to Lucy Frazer, the Prisons Minister, to ask her if her Department could carry out a formal review the site and I hope she will now have time to reconsider the sale.

I believe the gaol is simply too valuable to our community and to the wider world to be redeveloped as luxury flats.

With its unique connection to Oscar Wilde and King Henry the gaol should be described as a World Heritage site.

The prison is a grade II listed building and it is the only gaol to sit on top of a scheduled ancient monument, as it covers much of Reading Abbey, including the area that is believed to contain the high altar, where King Henry I was buried.

The Government’s own heritage watchdog, Historic England, has called for the Government to consider an arts and heritage use for the site.

I also believe there is huge public support for it being saved and used for arts and heritage, as was demonstrated last year, when 8,000 people signed the petition to save the gaol and 1,000 turn out in the rain last autumn to hold a symbolic gaol hug, where campaigners joined hands around the prison walls.

This gaol, which has seen so much history deserves better than to be turned into luxury flats.

To support my campaign sign the petition here