The Rt. Hon. Liz Truss MP
House of Commons
SW1A 0AA 5th September 2022
Dear Liz Truss MP,
Being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the ultimate privilege for any Member of Parliament and with it comes a great opportunity to make real and lasting change to communities across our country.
Here in Reading, we have been liaising with the Ministry of Justice for over three years about the future of the Reading Gaol.
Reading Gaol is a site of national and international significance and an important part of the cultural history of our town. It has been a feature of our community since 1844 when it was constructed on the site of the former county prison.
It, famously, was the holding place of Oscar Wilde and was where he penned the Ballad of Reading Gaol. It is also now home to a painting by world-famous artist, Banksy. The Gaol is understood to be the final burial place of King Henry I.
Since the site was mothballed in 2013, a group of dedicated local residents have been working hard to make the case for Reading Gaol to stay as a community arts facility.
The Ministry of Justice, however, have been pursuing a commercial disposal of the site since 2019 with a plan, we believe, to turn the building into luxury flats and essentially eradicating the history of building to little more than a façade.
The campaign group acknowledge that as the Ministry of Justice are determined to realise a capital receipt for the site and so Reading Borough Council have offered £2.6million for the Gaol but this was rejected by ministers as being too low.
Since then, Banksy has offered significant financial support to secure the Gaol as a community arts venue by selling one of his stencils. However, ministers and officials at the Ministry of Justice are not giving this new offer the consideration it deserves.
As our new Prime Minister, I am asking for an undertaking from you that you will instruct your ministers and officials to give due consideration to the offer from Banksy and work with me, reading Borough Council and Banksy to secure this site for the future of everyone in Reading.
I look forward to hearing from you soon,
Matt Rodda MP
Member of Parliament for Reading East