A DERELICT prison site could be given a new lease of life to become part of an economic redevelopment scheme in a Hambleton market town.

Hambleton District Council has announced it could become the new owner of Northallerton Prison under ambitious plans for the town centre.

The prison closed late last year shortly after the town also lost the Rural Payments Agency, with a combined loss of around 600 jobs in the town.

Hambleton District Council has outlined a Central Northallerton Masterplan for the area, which sets out a vision for the redevelopment of the sites left vacant by the closures.

Members of the authority’s cabinet are next month being asked to approve negotiations to buy the defunct prison from the Ministry of Justice.

The building is part of a major new masterplan for the market town – new homes, leisure and education provision and shops are included in a scheme, which also takes in Crosby Road car park.

The Ministry of Justice is looking to dispose of the prison by March next year – but has agreed to hold off putting it on the open market to allow time for negotiations with the district council.

“We are looking to acquire the prison as part of our economic development strategy for the district, a strategy we have allocated £5m to,” said deputy leader of the council Councillor Peter Wilkinson.

“We want to make sure that redevelopment of the entire site takes place in a co-ordinated way and provides the maximum economic and community benefit for the town.

“Acquiring the prison will be an exciting development for the authority – if cabinet give approval for negotiations with the Ministry of Justice we would expect a final value by the end of the year.”

Leader of Hambleton District Council Councillor Mark Robson added: “Taking on the prison site is something we have been looking at for a long time.

“We didn’t want to see the prison go but we have to move on from that and it is exciting to have this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The masterplan has been designed to complement the High Street, and could provide retail and housing for residents - and there are proposals for a mix of leisure, education and retail provision.

A family friendly pub, specialist shops and community uses are also possible developments.