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Holloway campaigners call for public housing on former prison site

30 April, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Reclaim Holloway campaigners outside Islington Town Hall 

CAMPAIGNERS gathered outside the Town Hall on Thursday to call on Islington Council to do everything in its power to ensure the closed Holloway prison is turned into affordable homes and community spaces.

Ten members of Reclaim Holloway, a group made up of Islington residents and community campaigners, handed out campaign leaflets outlining their vision for the 10-acre site to councillors and passers-by.

Campiagner Kerem Nişancıoğlu, 33, said he wanted the whole area to be turned into affordable housing and to be retained as public land. “I know it’s not entirely in the council’s hands but it’s something that they can push for,” he said.

“When the prison closed we noticed that it had been given by the Ministry of Justice to a property agent to be sold. The suspicion was, like a lot of land in London, that it will be given to a property developer to build luxury flats.”

The site is owned by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which is widely expected to sell it off to a private developer. But Islington’s planning committee will decide on the final development. The authority’s policy is to demand half of the new homes on big sites will be affordable.

Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Islington’s housing chief, met with the protesters outside the Town Hall. He said: “Our vision for this site is as much genuinely affordable housing as possible. Unfortunately, Labour are not in government, we will be doing as much as we possibly can.”

The campaigners also called for a new women’s centre on the site which would provide spaces for cultural activities and social support.

Mr Nişancıoğlu added: “When we’re talking about having a women’s building, it’s about doing justice to some of the struggles women in that prison have been through.”

Meanwhile a separate campaign, Community Plan for Holloway, a project run by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, has launched a survey where residents can put forward their views on what should happen to the site.

“A sale to private developers is not a foregone conclusion, so it’s incredibly important that people come forward to share their views about the future of the Holloway site,” said Rebecca Roberts, coordinator of Community plan for Holloway.

A report by the campaign, released at the same time as the survey, outlined the need for affordable homes in the borough. According to the report, 20,733 Islington households are on the waiting list for social housing while average house prices are 16.5 times more than the average annual income.

A Freedom of Information request made by the campaign also revealed the Ministry of Justice spent over £137,000 maintaining the closed Holloway prison between August 2016 and February 2017.

The MoJ would not disclose the cost of security.

The Ministry previously said it has been “in discussions” with the council about the future of the site, the value of which would be “determined by the market”.

An MoJ spokeswoman told the Tribune last November: “We are working with the local authority and others on the sale of the HMP Holloway site and will always seek best value for the taxpayer.”

More information about Reclaim Holloway can be found here.

People can respond to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies survey here.

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