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Effective January 25th, 2024, a stricter grip has been clamped on drone activity near prisons across England and Wales, including those in the Teesside, County Durham, and North Yorkshire areas. This new legislation brings about a 400-metre no-fly zone encompassing all closed prisons and young offender institutions, making unauthorised drone operation within these perimeters an automatic offense.

Previously, navigating drones near prisons without prior permission was permissible. However, under the revised regulations, any drone activity within the restricted airspace necessitates an exemption granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Such exemptions will only be considered for authorised or emergency purposes, ensuring the utmost security for inmates and prison staff.

This policy shift stems from growing concerns about the potential misuse of drones for illegal activities like smuggling contraband into prisons. The tightened airspace aims to deter such attempts and maintain the integrity of correctional facilities within the North East region.

“This is the latest step in the war we are winning to stop drugs, weapons and phones getting into our prisons” remarked the prisons minister, Damian Hinds “These virtual ‘no-fly’ zones – along with our new airport-style X-ray scanners – mean we can clamp down better than ever on violence behind bars to keep both prisoners and staff safe from harm.”

North East Prisons

The updated legislation applies to all closed prisons and young offender institutions within the North East, including:

  • HMP Holme House: Located in County Durham, HMP Holme House is a Category B men’s prison with a capacity of over 1,000 inmates.
  • HMP Durham: Another County Durham facility, HMP Durham, is a Category C men’s prison housing around 800 inmates.
  • HMP Frankland: Situated in County Durham, HMP Frankland is a high-security men’s prison accommodating some of the country’s most dangerous offenders.
  • HMP Wealstun: Nestled in North Yorkshire, HMP Wealstun is a Category C men’s prison with a population of roughly 700 inmates.
  • HMP Askham Grange: Also located in North Yorkshire, HMP Askham Grange is a women’s prison holding approximately 120 inmates.

Can I fly a drone in Durham City Centre?

Drone operators should be particularly aware of the impact of the new restrictions around HMP Durham, as the 400m zone covers Palace Green and the Eastern side of Durham Cathedral which are both popular spots for recreational drone flyers, along with most of the Market Place.

Prior to the new regulations, the City of Durham was only restricted for helicopters, as part of security arrangements for HMP Frankland and HMP Durham.

Outside the 400m no-fly zone, Durham County Council don’t have any bylaws or PSPOs restricting drone flights from their land, including from Wharton Park.

Reaction to new regulations

The introduction of these no-fly zones has been met with mixed reactions. While some applaud the move, emphasising the need for enhanced prison security, others express concerns about potential overreach and limitations on recreational drone flying in the vicinity of these facilities.

Regardless of the differing viewpoints, one thing remains clear: the new regulations mark a significant change in the landscape of drone operation near prisons in the North East. As residents and drone enthusiasts adjust to the revised airspace restrictions, it’s crucial to prioritise public safety and responsible drone use while respecting the security measures implemented around these correctional institutions.

Additional Information

It is important to note that the information provided in this article is for general knowledge purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any questions about the new drone regulations or their applicability to specific situations, it is best to consult with a qualified legal professional.

Last Updated on 2 February 2024