CONCERNS are building over the planned closure of a women's prison in York which has been given glowing reports by inspectors.

Askham Grange open prison in Askham Richard is due to be closed by the Ministry of Justice so prisoners can serve sentences closer to home.

However the decision is understood to be the subject of a judicial review after prisoners asked for it to remain open.

The prison has a record of having among the lowest re-conviction rates in the country and is the only open prison with the facilities to allow mothers to stay with their young children.

It has also now been announced that Askham Grange has also been awarded the highest possible rating in recent inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons and by Ofsted.

The inspections prove it makes "no sense" to close the prison which is an "asset to the justice system", the Prison Officers' Association (POA) said.

A spokesperson said: "Following a recent HMIP inspection HMP Askham Grange has been awarded the highest possible rating in safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.

"To reinforce their success HMP Askham Grange was awarded the highest possible rating by Ofsted.

"HMP Askham Grange is an asset to the justice system in terms of rehabilitation and clearly provides value for money for the taxpayer.

"If there is to be a Rehabilitation Revolution it makes no sense to continue with plans to close HMP Askham Grange."

Earlier this year The Independent Monitoring Board described the decision to close the prison as "baffling". It warned that shutting Askham Grange open prison could lead to an increased risk of re-offending.

A prison service spokesperson would not comment at what stage the judicial review is at, only saying "discussions are ongoing between both sides".

They said: "The planned closure of the two open women’s prisons is currently subject to ongoing litigation, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.

"We keep plans for our prison estate under constant review. We make sure we have the prisons we need in the most suitable locations and are able to deliver the most effective rehabilitation of all female prisoners. We will always have enough prison places for those sent to us by the courts and continue to meet the needs of female prisoners."