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‘Give us proper centre at ex-jail’

Campaigners want rehabilitation and refuge services in standalone women’s building at former Holloway Prison site

19 March, 2021 — By Calum Fraser

Niki Gibbs from the Community Plan for Holloway group

HOLLOWAY Prison activists say developers are throwing away a vital chance to challenge violence against women as plans for a standalone women’s building on the site are “dismissed”.

Campaigners have been pressing Peabody to incorporate a women’s building providing rehabilitation and refuge services in their plans since the housing association bought the Parkhurst Road site in 2019.

So far, however, it has only offered a “single floor on the bottom of a multi-storey block of flats” – a proposal that the Community Plan for Holloway (CP4H) group say is “not fit for purpose”.

Niki Gibbs, an artist and member of CP4H’s board of directors, said: “We’re so upset and disappointed in what they have come forward with. In light of what has happened with Sarah Everard and violence against women, I think it is so soulless and hurtful.”

She added: “At this point in time, you can see there is a complete lack of women’s services and it is scandalous. We have a solution here to some of the problems being discussed, there on your plate ready to go, but there’s no real enthusiasm from Peabody to embrace that.”

Holloway Prison was the largest women’s prison in western Europe until its closure in 2016.

The prison has a symbolic role in the fight for women’s rights as many of the suffragettes who fought for the vote in the early 20th century were locked up in the building at different stages.

Inmates included Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Pankhurst and Dame Ethel Smyth. Many went on hunger strike in protest at how they were being treated.

Peabody has laid out plans to build more than 1,000 homes on the site with 60 per cent described as being affordable rates.

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