INTEREST in Gloucester prison is rising since it was put on the market.
The Gloucester Citizen understands around 30 expressions of interest in the 222-year-old building have been made.
Potential buyers have until the end of May to register their interest.
The site, which closed as a prison a year ago, is believed to be worth between around £1.5million and £3million.
That is because, despite its prime location between the city centre and the Docks, modern additions may need to be knocked down and Grade II-listed parts retained. And some scores of bodies are believed to be buried there.
Gloucester City Council leader Councillor Paul James said it would do all it could as the planning authority and owner of neighbouring land to make the best of the new owner’s vision.
“There is a lot of interest, some from companies that are familiar within the city and some who have not invested here before,” he said.
“The fact there is a lot of interest given the restraints on the site is encouraging.
“I am very keen to see comprehensive redevelopment of the whole area, which includes the Barbican car park and The Quay buildings owned by the county council, and, perhaps even at some point, the 1960s and 70s extension to Shire Hall.
“I hope they are looking at the city in that wider context. We are very keen as a planning authority and a landowner to have conversations with interested parties.”
One potential bidder who has put his hat in the ring is Littledean Jail’s Crime Through Time Museum owner Andy Jones.
He would like to use it as a museum, film set and a venue to work with young offenders.
“I am still waiting for a response,” he said. “I think it’s all a bit cloak and dagger – I cannot get a price out of them.”
Details for the 3.5-acre site were released by the selling agent on behalf of the Ministry of Justice last month.
It said it could be suitable for residential, office and hotel use subject to planning permission.
It’s a site steeped in history – King Henry III, together with Queen Eleanor and Prince Edward, lived there during his reign in the 13th Century.
From 1792 to 1939, a total of 123 prisoners were executed at Gloucester Prison but not all are buried there, it is believed.
However, some inmates who died within the prison but were not executed may also have been buried there.
Three areas of graves have been identified on a map which is in the buyers’ pack but there could be more.
The mainly Victorian site’s closure was overdue – the Independent Monitoring Board criticised its overcrowding, poor dining provision and cramped cells in 2007 and it closed in March 2013.
The operators of the Oxford Jail Malmaison hotel expressed interest in the site, but that is believed to have waned.
An HM Prison Service spokesman said: “The former Gloucester prison site is for sale.
“We will consider appropriate offers and will always seek best value for taxpayers.”