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Islington Council warns Holloway Prison developers they must hit affordable homes target

PUBLISHED: 16:55 07 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 07 July 2017

Holloway Prison closed last year. Picture: Polly Hancock

Holloway Prison closed last year. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Developers hoping to make a huge profit on the Holloway Prison site by building luxury flats and skimping on affordable housing can think again, town hall bosses have warned.

Central courtyard at the Holloway Prison site Central courtyard at the Holloway Prison site

In a draft plan for the future of the 10-acre estate in Parkhurst Road, published yesterday, Islington Council made clear it will be standing firm in its demand for genuine affordable homes to be included in any deal.

Officers reckon 210 social-rent flats or houses can be built by developers without any subsidy. That deal would also see another 90 marketed as “affordable”, with London Living Wage (where renters pay one third of their salary a month) the preference.

The maths are based on a proposal for 600 homes that meets the council’s policy of 50 per cent being “affordable”, and 70pc of those being social-rent.

The document acknowledges the Ministry of Justice, which owns the land, wants to sell it for as much as possible so it can reinvest it in the country’s cash-strapped prison estate.

Protestors marching on Holloway Prison to demand the prison site is replaced by council housing and community facilitiesProtestors marching on Holloway Prison to demand the prison site is replaced by council housing and community facilities

But the council, walking tall on the back of a landmark affordable housing case, argued “the duty to achieve best value for the site does not outweigh the need to meet planning requirements.”

Just weeks ago the Planning Inspectorate ruled in the town hall’s favour after First Base Ltd tried to push through a project on the former Territorial Army Centre, also in Parkhurst Road, with zero affordable housing.

The decision ruled developers must take into account planning policy when bidding for land, and cannot overpay and then claim they’ve got nothing left for affordable homes.

“Overpaying against the value of the land will not be taken into account,” the council made clear in the report.

Housing boss Cllr Diarmaid Ward said the planning victory had put a stop to developers manipulating the viability process. He told the Gazette: “The days when they can come to us and say we can’t do affordable housing because we paid too much are gone.

“We were very pleased with the Parkhurst Road decision. We don’t have planning policy for no reason. There’s a housing crisis across London and in Islington we have 19,000 on the housing register.

“The bottom line is any scheme needs to be policy compliant, and our policy is 50 per cent affordable.”

Holloway was the biggest women’s prison in western Europe with capacity for 501 inmates, before closing 12 months ago.

Protesters were joined by Jeremy Corbyn last year as they marched on the prison to demand social housing be built on the site.

More than 300 people responded to the initial consultation about the future of the site, and the next will run from the end of July until September 25.

Property experts estimate up to 5,000 homes could be built on the land, netting £2billion for developers.

The council brief also includes plans for a centre to support women in the criminal justice system, shops, health services, a park and an energy centre.

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.

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