MORE details of how a former prison could be converted were revealed as a council discussed a masterplan to redevelop a town centre.

The plan is designed to drive future redevelopment of the prison and the former Rural Payments Agency buildings in Northallerton, both of which have remained empty since government closure, which resulted in the loss of about 600 jobs from the town.

The redevelopment of the sites has been hailed a “significant opportunity” for Northallerton as it is rare for such a large area of a town centre to be redeveloped simultaneously.

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At a planning meeting on Thursday (June 26) planning director Mick Jewitt told councillors the aim of the masterplan was to allow “coordinated and cohesive” development on the site. He added: “The overall aim is to allow the maximum economic benefit of the town.”

Potentially, the nearby council car park on Crosby Road and Northallerton’s fire station site could be incorporated into the redevelopment if the fire service decides to move.

The fire service is currently carrying out a review into whether to alter the number and location of fire stations and engines in North Yorkshire.

Mr Jewitt said consultations with organisations over plans for the site revealed a strong preference for retaining any “historic interest in the site”.

He said there was also some support for converting the site to some kind of educational use and said there were discussions with Teesside University over the RPA building.

He said the preferred option for the former prison was for residential and retailing use, while the secondary option was for a hotel. Other options that were felt may be suitable included a pub, small retail units or family restaurant.

Councillor John Coulson said he had been hoping to see something “a little bit more dynamic” to bring people to Northallerton.

“You see people talk about the heritage of the site. I think we could have been more committed to that.

“It maybe a museum; this is the county town of North Yorkshire, let’s reflect North Yorkshire in this building.”

Councillor Tony Hall said: “I think the flexibility is well inbuilt into this. What you see now might not be what you see in three weeks’ time.”

He added: “The devil is in the details and the detail will come from the developers.”

The planning committee voted to refer the master plan to the full council for adoption as informal planning guidance and voted for a second site visit.