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Holloway Prison site developers told: ‘Half of new homes must be affordable’

Town Hall chiefs adopt tough stance in planning brief before sale of massive site

07 July, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

TOWN Hall chiefs have warned developers interested in buying the Holloway Prison site that they should not pay too much for the land expecting they will make huge profits on a massive luxury development.

In a long-awaited planning brief for the 10-acre site, published this week, Islington Council signalled to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which owns the complex, and developers that they will adopt a tough negotiating position to maximise social benefit for the borough – particularly genuinely affordable housing.

The council’s sums show at least 200 new social-rented homes can be built on-site without any subsidy. At least half of the new homes at the Camden Road site should be classed as “affordable” in line with Islington’s planning policy, the report states.

And it warns potential developers that “overpaying against the value of the land” will not be taken into account in planning negotiations.

Housing chief Diarmaid Ward

Islington housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward said: “The days of developers coming to us saying they can’t afford [to build] affordable housing because they paid too much on the site are long gone.

“The fight for social justice in 2017 is the fight for affordable housing for everybody.”

He added: “At the end of the day a Ministry of Justice which is not concerned with housing justice is not worthy of the name.”

Some property experts believe the site could fetch £200million and would have enough space for 5,000 homes as part of a housing development worth £2.5billion.

The MoJ has made it clear it wants to maximise profit on the site to invest heavily in the country’s creaking prison estate. But Islington’s planning brief effectively calls on the MoJ to sell the site below “market value”.

It sets out an ideal scenario involving 600 new homes that strikes a balance between “optimising development density” while being in keeping with the character of the surrounding area. This would see a minimum of 210 social-rented homes built, 190 homes for shared ownership or below-market rent and 300 properties for sale on the open market across six three to six storey blocks.

The council said its viability analysis demonstrates this is achievable without grants from the government.

However, council chiefs expect any potential developer to team up with a housing association, which can apply for subsidy to build even more desperately needed affordable homes.

The planning brief also sets out proposals for a new building hosting women’s services, including for female offenders.

Other plans include new shops along Parkhurst Road and Camden Road, a health centre, a new park and energy centre.

The planning brief comes after the Town Hall won backing for its stance on affordable homes last week, when developer First Base was refused permission for mostly luxury apartments on the site of the former army barracks in nearby Parkhurst Road.

The Parkhurst Road site sold for £13million. It is considerably smaller than the prison complex.

The MoJ said the value of the Holloway site would be “determined by the market”.

A spokeswoman added: “We are working with the local authority and others on the sale of the HMP and YOI [young offenders’ institution] Holloway site and will always seek best value for the taxpayer.”

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