FOUR years after the last inmate left for Jurby, the crumbling Victoria Road jail is to be razed to the ground.
Demolition contractors JCK moved in this week to flatten the entire two acre site.
Plans to redevelop the land had been thwarted by controversial proposals to give listed status to parts of the Victorian prison complex including the red-brick gatehouse.
But an application for listed status was never made and a demolition order was granted a few months ago.
Demolition is expected to be completed by mid-March.
However, a question mark still hangs over what future use will be made of the site once it is cleared.
Ian Notman, project sponsor in the Department of Home Affairs, said: ‘The whole site is going to be demolished starting this week. The gatehouse will be going. There was a proposal to list that building but an application was never made. The big trees in the front are staying.
‘The site will be left in a safe and appropriate manner until development plans are put forward. There are no plans for the site currently. It is a government asset.’
Mr Notman said a small amount of asbestos had been found in the building but this had already been removed.
Victoria Road Prison opened in April 1891 as the first purpose-built jail to be constructed in the Isle of Man.
In its later years there was a lot of criticism about overcrowding and human rights. The widely condemned practice of slopping out only ended in January 2004 following a highly critical Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons report.
It finally closed in August 2008 when the last inmates were transferred to the new £42 million jail at Jurby.
The Department of Home Affairs applied for the Victoria Road site to be demolished in 2010 but in November that year it emerged that it had been thwarted in its efforts by a proposal to place two of the buildings on the site onto the listed register as being of ‘special architectural or historic interest’.
Uses for the site that have been suggested previously included sheltered housing, first time buyers’ homes, a leisure facility or even a relocated Douglas fire station.
But Andrew Wallace, head of asset management in the Department of Infrastructure’s properties division, said there were currently no specific plans drawn up for redevelopment.
He said: ‘We are currently reviewing all the options. An internal consultation is underway to look at the best uses for the site and see if there are any particular uses in government.’
Peel MHK Tim Crookall’s private members’ bill to amend the Town and Country Bill to allow applications for listed building status to be referred to the Council of Ministers was given its third reading in the Legislative Council at the end of October. The bill aims to prevent government being left with a property it can do little or nothing with and at great cost should part of it become registered on the protected list.