PLANS for a jail in North Wales were backed by Gwynedd councillors yesterday.

The council’s board voted in favour of siting it on the former Ferodo site near Caernarfon.

Councillors heard a prison would benefit the area’s economy and prisoners’ lives.

Economic development leader Dewi Lewis said the prison would house 400 to 500 inmates and create about 450 direct jobs.

The new prison would give a £7.2m boost to the local economy each year, he added.

Supporting the plan Coun Dylan Edwards said a prison would support Caernarfon’s development as a legal and justice centre.

“It is reasonable anyone sentenced to jail would serve that sentence close to his or her home. We should look at the wider picture and jump at this chance,” he said.

But there were concerns at the lack of detail and the risks to the local population.

Councillor Roy Owen said: “There are far too many unanswered questions. Will the prison attract the families of prisoners and will we, as a council, be forced to find homes for them?

“There is talk of expertise being used at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor. Will this be at expense of local people who will have to wait longer for treatment?”

Llais Gwynedd councillor Alwyn Gruffydd said: “Much work has been done to promote the idea of a prison being built in Meirionnydd. We are backing the wrong horse if we vote in favour of this plan.”

Gwynedd council voted in favour of a prison in the area last year but councillors discussed the issue again as part of the Justice Department consultation process on the plan.

In his report, recommending support for the Ferodo site, the council’s strategic director of development, Iwan Trefor Jones, notes that there is no prison provision in North Wales.

The proposed prison would be for between 400-500 category C offenders – those reaching the end of their sentence, those considered to be low risk, and those on remand.

The council board voted 8-3 in favour of backing the new prison on the Ferodo site.

Other sites under consideration are at Wrexham, Cwmbran and Merthyr Tydfil. The chosen site is expected to be announced next year with building to start in 2012.