Islington council have released their vision for the site, and we have until midnight on Monday to influence it.
The SPD is the guidance that developers will follow in planning applications for the land, it's not binding but does tell developers what they are expected to include if they want their application to be successful. The Council have released a draft of the guidance and are consulting on it - the responses they get will help shape a final version which the Council hopes to pass in the autumn.
Sadly, the SPD accepts the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ’s) stance that the land should be sold off to the highest bidder and the cash used to build more prisons, which stifles their vision for what could be on the site. Selling off this land for quick cash is far from, as the MoJ say they want, “best value for the taxpayer”. Keeping it in public hands would mean it is developed entirely with the community and public in mind, rather than for private profit, and that long term it would contribute to the public purse far more than an upfront sale.
Housing is a priority for the Council, they say they want at least 50% affordable housing on the site. But 30% of this would be shared ownership or London Living Rent - neither of which will help those in the most housing need nor are long term affordable options. A community led housing scheme on the site could mean 100% affordable housing, residents having more control over their homes, and that specific accommodation is created to support women who are trying to rebuild their lives after prison. The Council needs to prioritise community led housing schemes, rather than let half the homes on the site become luxury flats for investors.
The prison site has a complex and painful history, and this must be honoured. It is brilliant to see the SPD incorporate Reclaim Holloway’s call for a Women’s Building on the land, but again this doesn't go far enough. Many of the services, charities and volunteer groups who supported the women in Holloway prison are struggling to get funding and pay rent. They need to own and control the Women’s Building to ensure they have secure futures, and they and the women who will use the building need to be involved with planning it right from the beginning.
And finally, every month that passes with the prison sat unused is a waste, and costing us thousands to keep it empty and secured. The Visitors’ Centre is a fully kitted out community space that many local groups would hugely benefit from. The Council say the site should be opened up but there needs to be more urgency here, we want a policy on the site’s meanwhile use created quickly, and a swift application process put in place.
There are only two more days to support what the Council begins, but to push them to go further. You can do this by emailing comments to email@example.com, or by filling in their survey here. The deadline is midnight on Monday 2nd October! You can also email Secretary of State for Justice David Lidington to tell him not to sell the land on the open market, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a summary of how Reclaim Holloway will be responding.
Islington Council’s SPD (Supplementary Planning document) for the ten-acre Holloway Prison site accepts that the site must be sold to the highest bidder, and the returns used to fund additional prison spaces. This is the opposite of “best value for the taxpayer.”
- Reclaim Holloway believes this valuable asset should remain in public hands. Other models of funding and ownership should be considered, and public ownership models encouraged and given priority in the bidding process.
- The SPD’s current target of 50% genuinely affordable housing is unambitious. Community-led housing could potentially provide 100% genuinely affordable housing on the site, with greater long-term financial value than through a one-off sale.
- The site should include housing (including some supported options) for women affected by incarceration or disadvantaged in social circumstances which often lead to incarceration
- The legacy of the women’s prison should be marked by a Women’s Building to house organisations helping women who are in or at risk of falling into the criminal justice system
- The prison’s visitors centre is empty and unused. The Ministry of Justice and Council should urgently work out a joint policy on temporary uses, and publicise how applications for meanwhile use will work.
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