IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Protesters push for affordable flats on prison site

Housing chief supports campaigners who fear that property developer will build luxury homes

05 May, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Campaigners want the Town Hall to press for the prison site to be retained as public land

CAMPAIGNERS gathered outside the town hall on Thursday to call on Islington Council to do everything in its power to ensure affordable homes are built on the site of the closed Holloway prison.

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

Campaigner 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 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 that, like a lot of land in London, 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 are affordable.

Islington housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward met the protesters outside the town hall.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward: ‘Vision for this site’

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 are pressing for a new women’s centre on the site. It would provide spaces for cultural activities and social support.

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

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. 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 revealed the MoJ spent more than £137,000 maintaining the closed prison between August 2016 and February 2017.

The MoJ would not disclose the cost of security. It 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 in 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.”

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