SOMERSET’S only prison, at Shepton Mallet, will be closed in a £63million cost-cutting drive.

The Ministry of Justice has announced the category C prison - the oldest still operating in the UK – will be shut along with others at Bullwood Hall, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston, and Shrewsbury, all classed by the MoJ as “smaller, older and more expensive”.

Parts of three other prisons, at Chelmsford, Hull and the Isle of Wight will also close.

The Government is planning to build a new prison which would become Britain’s largest, housing more than 2,000 inmates, and wants to increase accommodation at four existing prisons.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive.

“But I never want the courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available.

“So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system. That’s why we are moving ahead with immediate plans for new prison capacity, as well as closing older and more expensive facilities.”

Shepton Mallet Prison holds around 200 prisoners and dates to the 17th century.