Reading Borough Council's bid to buy Reading Prison from the Ministry of Justice and convert it into an arts venue has failed. The derelict prison costs more than £250,000 a year to maintain and was put up for sale to the highest bidder for development. The Council’s bid depended on securing significant external fundings to manage the risk of taking on the historic property, which sits next to The Abbey on a site of national significance, offering "huge potential for heritage-led regeneration".
The Council's planning restrictions mean any site development will have to include a cultural or historical element that draws on the significance of the prison, which was immortalised by Oscar Wilde's poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. They will be working with the as yet unnamed successful bidder to ensure the prison's historical and cultural value is recognised in the future.
The campaign group Save Reading Gaol has expressed sadness at the failure of the Council's bid, saying they will now try to persuade the new owners to apportion part of the heritage site for the community.