Chancellor's prison sell off 'will free up housing sites'

Reports that the chancellor's Autumn Statement later this month will include plans for nine new prisons alongside proposals to increase the number of enterprise zones across England and Wales feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Guardian reports that George Osborne will announce that "five new jails are expected to be opened by 2020, in addition to the new prison being built in Wrexham and the expansions of HMP Stocken, a category C jail in Rutland, and HMP Rye Hill, a category B prison in Warwickshire run by G4S." The newspaper says that "more than 3,000 new homes could be built on the city centre sites of the old jails, with Grade II-listed HMP Reading, built in 1844 and closed in 2013, the first to be sold."

The Independent reports that the government is also to announce an increase in the number of "business-boosting enterprise zones in England, from 24 to around 40, in the Autumn Statement this month." The newspaper says that the zones "were launched three-and-a-half years ago and have attracted around £2.2 billion of investment and created nearly 19,000 jobs."

The Telegraph reports that Prime Minister David Cameron "has decided it would be politically safe to back a third runway at Heathrow, despite previously promising to block the expansion of Britain's busiest airport, Whitehall sources have said." The newspaper says that the government "is preparing to announce the next phase for airport expansion within weeks, ahead of a new public consultation on increasing aviation capacity."

The Telegraph also reports that "the number of people who spend more than two hours commuting to and from work has soared by more than 70 per cent over the past decade", a study by the TUC has revealed. The newspaper says that the TUC "blamed the longer travelling times on inflated house prices and a lack of spending on roads and railways. The biggest increases in long commutes are in the South East, South West, East Midlands and Wales."

The Independent reports that work on the proposed £1 billion tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay could be delayed by a year "amid concerns over costs". The newspaper says that "executives at Gloucester-based Tidal Lagoon Power wanted construction to start in the spring after getting planning permission in June, but it has been delayed by 12 months. The postponement was partly blamed on negotiations with the Department for Energy & Climate Change over the contract for difference, which is the subsidy the government will pay for each unit of renewable energy produced by the lagoon."

The Guardian reports that the government "is proposing a national minimum bedroom size as part of a drive to stop landlords carving up houses into ever smaller rooms to maximise rental income." The newspaper says that "bedrooms in houses of multiple occupation would have to be a minimum of 6.5 square metres (70 square feet), and landords letting rooms smaller than that would be guilty of a criminal offence."

The Telegraph reports that "an old pear tree that lies in the proposed path of the HS2 high-speed rail link has been voted England's Tree of the Year." The newspaper says the "Cubbington pear tree, near the village of Cubbington in Warwickshire, sits on the proposed phase one line of the new rail route and is to be uprooted once construction begins."

The Guardian reports that proposals "to build a park-and-ride scheme on the outskirts of Bath will wreck precious water meadows, ruin fine views and could even put the city’s UNESCO world heritage status at risk, campaigners have warned." The newspaper says that "protesters against the scheme, which is being put forward by the Conservative-led local authority, argue it would spoil one of the celebrated green approaches to the city and destroy the vista from Little Solsbury Hill, the site of an iron-age fort – and the subject of one of Peter Gabriel’s most famous songs."

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