A CAMPAIGN to create a new arts centre for the greater Reading area has reached a new milestone today.
Matt Rodda, the MP for Reading East, which includes parts of Woodley and Earley, has been running a petition in support of plans to turn the former Reading Gaol site into the centre.
However, there are fears that the building will be sold by the Ministry of Justice to the highest bidder and turned into housing.
Earlier this month, more than 700 people gathered to link arms around the gaol site in a symbolic hugging gesture. The event saw Mr Rodda, a Labour MP, hug his Reading West Conservative counterpart, Alok Sharma, in a gesture of solidarity to the campaign.
Mr Rodda launched the petition in May and said that there had been a large increase in sign-ups since the hug took place on Sunday, October 13.
It now have 7,165 signatures on it.
Mr Rodda said: “I’m delighted that 7,000 people have now signed the petition to save Reading Gaol, this is a really significant step forward.
“The Ministry of Justice needs to listen to local people and allow the gaol to be turned into an arts and community hub.”
Not everyone is in favour of the plan. Reading East Conservative candidate Craig Morley said that he has written to the Ministry of Justice to encourage them to sell the site.
In a tweet, he wrote: “Reading prison should be sold as soon as possible to secure the best value for the taxpayer. That is why I have written to @RobertBuckland to ask the MOJ to accelerate the sale”.