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New delay to Holloway Prison sale branded a ‘disgrace’

Campaigners: 'It would make much more sense to keep the land in public hands and start developing plans for much-needed social housing now'

09 November, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

CALLS for the Holloway Prison site to remain in public hands were renewed this week as further delays to its sale were revealed.

The jail, which housed around 600 women, was closed by the government in July 2016, with a forecast that a buyer for the Camden Road site would be announced this year.

But at a meeting this week the Ministry of Justice claimed that this would not now happen until at least the beginning of next year.

Will McMahon, from coalition group Community Plan for Holloway, said: “Despite Ministry of Justice claims that a preferred bidder was to be agreed in spring 2018, another delay is now on the cards. Brexit means developers have the Ministry over a barrel.”

He adde: “Given the uncertain time we are living in, it would make much more sense to keep the land in public hands and start developing plans for much-needed social housing now. Otherwise, we may face years of delay despite an ever-present housing crisis. It makes you wonder why they closed it so soon.”

The question about when an announcement was expected was asked by a staff member from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at an MoJ conference on Monday.

Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn said this week: “Under a Labour government sites like Holloway Prison will be offered to public bodies first.”

Andy Bain, from Islington Homes for All, has again said Mayor of London Sadiq Khan could be doing more to ensure the land remains in public hands. Mr Bain added: “The preferred developer may be waiting for land prices to fall to make greater profits. Local people, political parties and trade unions want maximum council housing. Mr Khan could intervene to secure much more council housing as part of his overall plan. It would be a win-win for him and the homeless of London.”

He added: “It’s a disgrace that public land is left unused while homelessness and the demand for council housing increases.”

Dr Kate Paradine, chief executive of Women in Prison, said: “That site has been empty for over two years now. There are really serious questions to be asked about how all of this has come about and what’s going to happen now. “We believe the money from the site should be reinvested in women’s services to recognise the impact of its rushed clos­ure and as a legacy for what that prison stood for.”

Islington Council planning guidance states that it will not accept less than 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes on the site.

Housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward said: “I am also getting rather impatient.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said his team had worked closely with the council earlier this year on the planning brief. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman would not confirm the timing of a sale announcement, but said: “We continue to work towards the sale of the site and will always seek best value for taxpayers.”

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