AMBITIOUS plans for the re-development of Northallerton town centre could see Hambleton District Council buy the town's former prison.

Members of the authority’s Cabinet are next month being asked to approve negotiations to buy the defunct jail from the Ministry of Justice.

The building is part of a major new ‘masterplan’ for the market town, involving new homes, shops and leisure and education provision.

A council spokeswoman said the Ministry of Justice was looking to dispose of the prison by March next year but had agreed to hold off putting it on the open market to allow time for negotiations with the council.

Council deputy leader, Cllr Peter Wilkinson, said: “Acquiring the prison will be an exciting development for the authority – if Cabinet give approval for negotiations with the Ministry of Justice we would expect a final value by the end of the year.”