A HISTORIC Somerset tourist attraction previously facing closure could still be turned into residential accommodation despite being allowed to stay open for the foreseeable future.

It was announced on November 28, 2023 that Shepton Mallet Prison would cease operations from Tuesday, January 2, 2024 - but in a matter of weeks, it was decided that the tourist attraction would remain open after a public outcry.

A worker at the prison told the County Gazette that landlords City & Country (who made the initial decision to close the site down) intended to demolish some of the newer 1970s buildings on the site to build luxury town houses and convert the prison's four wings into luxury three and four bedroom apartments.Somerset County Gazette: One of the prison's four wings which could be turned into apartments.One of the prison's four wings which could be turned into apartments. (Image: NQ Staff)

Simon Marner, City & Country's Land and Property Director, confirmed this, and told the County Gazette that his company 'remain interested' in developing the site for residential purposes, which would include the addition of 'community heritage spaces' and a café.

“We are pleased to confirm that it is increasingly likely that Shepton Mallet Prison will remain open, so the local community can continue to enjoy and benefit from access to, and use of, this valuable heritage building," Mr Marner explained.

"From our extensive experience in dealing with heritage property, we understand that significant buildings such as this should remain occupied and used to prevent them from falling into disrepair. 

"The announcement to close was made by the Cove Group without our prior knowledge, and we are pleased that they have recently confirmed their wish to continue to operate the site for the time being.

"However, they are yet to comply with insurer’s requirements and may be unable to remain as operators.Somerset County Gazette: One of the newer buildings built in the 1970s which could be knocked down in place of luxury town houses.One of the newer buildings built in the 1970s which could be knocked down in place of luxury town houses. (Image: NQ Staff)

"We are also investigating whether it is viable for us to keep the visitor attraction open with assistance from one of our other business partners."

“Unless the proposal can safeguard the future of the heritage buildings over the longer term, we remain interested in the originally proposed option of developing the site, in accordance with the planning approval, to create residential accommodation with community and heritage spaces and a café.

"However, we are also open to discussions from parties wishing to develop the site for other purposes, subject to the necessary planning approvals.

"We hope to make a final decision on whether we can continue with Cove or not in the coming weeks.

"We have no other set timeframes in terms of redeveloping the site in part or comprehensively at this stage.”

The Cove Group did not respond to our request for a comment in response to the claims made by City & Country.