The Ministry of Justice have failed to acknowledge the interests of the community in their response to Banksy’s bid for Reading Gaol, according to the woman behind a petition to save it.

Frustrated that the street artist’s £10m offer to turn the prison into an arts hub have been seemingly ignored, Katie Pearman, who has lived in Reading for 40 years, is asking the MoJ to reopen the bidding process.

More than 320 people have leant their signatures to the petition, which she hopes will stop the prison - where King Henry I may be buried and which incarcerated Oscar Wilde - becoming a block of flats.

Read more: Pressure builds on Ministry of Justice to accept Banksy’s Reading Gaol offer 

“I have an interest in the arts world, I’m quite a keen theatre-goer, but mostly as a Reading person I though gosh, Reading is such a great town and we need to preserve our heritage,” said Ms Pearman.

“This is such a fantastic site, why would this not be retained for the community?”

When similar questions were asked of the MoJ, a Prison Service spokesperson told the Chronicle “The deadline for bids has passed and we are currently considering the ones we received.”

Banksy pledged £10m to support a bid by Reading Borough Council made before that deadline proposing the prison become an arts hub.

Read more: Reading reacts to Banksy’s shock £10m bid for historic Gaol

“It’s very frustrating that we got the blank answer of ‘it’s closed’,” said Ms Pearman, adding she was motivated to start the petition by concerns the MoJ might award the site to a housing developer.

“They failed to acknowledge the community interest in that site and I thought their response was insufficient.”

She said turning the prison into a cultural and artistic hub would bring an economic boost to the town by joining up the Abbey Quarter.

“I hope that Reading people will get behind the petition and that they [the MoJ] will rethink and actually give an opportunity for the Reading bid to be improved upon.

“It would be a real success for public opinion to make change possible and to change the direction of institutional thinking; to change the criteria from purely pound notes-led to actually recognizing other factors in decision-making.”

At 10,000 signatures a petition will get a response from the government and at 100,000, a petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

Reading East MP Matt Rodda backed the petition, which went live on December 30, and called on the MoJ to “completely rethink its approach and seriously consider Banksy’s offer.”

He said: “There is a growing weight of opinion calling for the Ministry to rethink and I’d like to thank the person who created the petition calling for the Ministry of Justice to consider Banksy’s offer and all those who have signed it.