The MP for Torridge and West Devon Geoffrey Cox has said it is “very disappointing” a Devon prison could be shut down in the next ten years.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) unveiled its latest prison modernisation programme yesterday in which it discussed the future of HMP Dartmoor, in Princetown.
The MoJ said the "age and limitations of the prison" means it has entered discussions with owners of the site, the Duchy of Cornwall, to end its lease.
An MoJ statement read: "The Ministry of Justice will begin discussions with the Duchy of Cornwall about the future of HMP Dartmoor, as part of the Government's ongoing plans to modernise the prison estate which is fairer on the hardworking taxpayer.
"The decision to start negotiations is not a reflection of the prison's current performance, but about its poor physical condition. The age and limitations of the prison means it does not have a long-term future in a modern, cost-effective prison system.
"Final decisions on the future of Dartmoor are a long way off as the lease has a ten-year notice period, but staff will be fully supported throughout the process."
The a category C prison for male inmates was built in 1809 to house prisoners from the Napoleonic wars.
Once holding 6,000 prisoners, today around 660 criminals are incarcerated there. But the prison still employs around 300 staff, making it the biggest source of work for many miles.
But Mr Cox is concerned by the loss of jobs the closure would mean and the lack of provision being made for the closure, if and when it happens.
He said: “The decision to close Dartmoor is very disappointing. I have made strong representations on this issue to the Minister and will do the same with local councils.
“Priority now must be given to the local community and to those who are dependent on the prison for their livelihood, and it is essential that early thought is given to the prison’s replacement to create an economic asset within the community.
“ It is vital that this building which is of unique historic importance is not left to crumble to rack and ruin, and therefore necessary investment must be made to create a positive and useful future for it on Dartmoor.”