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People’s Question Time: Sadiq Khan quizzed over homes on Holloway Prison and Police Station

PUBLISHED: 16:02 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:39 25 October 2018

Sadiq Khan speaks at the People's Question Time event in the Islington Assembly Hall. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Sadiq Khan speaks at the People's Question Time event in the Islington Assembly Hall. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

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Sadiq Khan was grilled over the empty Holloway Prison and Police Station sites at the Islington Assembly Hall on Tuesday night.

Cllr Gary Heather and other campaigners advocate turning the Holloway Prison site into council housing. Picture: Lucas CumsikeyCllr Gary Heather and other campaigners advocate turning the Holloway Prison site into council housing. Picture: Lucas Cumsikey

The mayor of London headlined People’s Question Time, where he hailed the “people’s republic of Islington”, noting the event hadn’t been hosted by the borough before.

The proceedings were chaired by Jennette Arnold (Lab, AM North East London) and people quizzed Mr Khan and assembly members on transport, safety, air quality, housing and the economy.

Banner-carrying campaigners stood outside the building, calling for Holloway Prison, which has been unused for two years, to be converted into council homes.

Holloway Prison pictured in the late 1990s while still a functioning jail. Picture: Rebecca NadenHolloway Prison pictured in the late 1990s while still a functioning jail. Picture: Rebecca Naden

One of the group, Jess, who wouldn’t give her surname, said: “We need housing to be built on the site but not just luxury flats – there’s too many of them around here – and people find it so hard pay private rent.”

Inside the hall, one man asked: “Will he [the mayor] now lobby government to build on the Holloway prison site and old Holloway Police Station, which he [the mayor] actually shut?”

“At least half the homes [at the former prison] will be genuinely affordable,” said Mr Khan.

The Islington Assembly Hall was packed for People's Question Time. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyThe Islington Assembly Hall was packed for People's Question Time. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

“It depends on who the person is that buys the land”.

He suggested it could go to a registered social landlord or housing association for social rent.

Earlier that day the Islington Council Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, said the buying the prison didn’t represent “value for money” for the council.

Discussions over the empty Hornsey Road station were ongoing, according to the mayor. But he said: “I can’t talk about the details.”

The council has previously expressed a desire to convert the station into 43 affordable homes.

One woman referenced Transport for London’s proposed bus route changes, designed to alter and shorten routes.

She said: “The cancelling of buses appears to be going ahead – in Islington we have major buses which we really rely on for work.”

In August the Gazette reported that five routes: the 4, 19, 134, 341 and 476 – all of which run through the borough – could be impacted by these TfLs plans.

“It was a genuine consultation,” said the mayor. “We are consulting on changing a number of buses.”

“A number [of buses] are empty during the day time and we’re trying to move buses to the areas of London with the greatest need.

“I will take on board concerns raised.”

The city hall chief was then asked about potential ticket hall closures, which would impact Overground station like Caledonian Road and Barnsbury and Canonbury.

The idea of having “nobody behind the glass” made the woman feel less safe.

The City Hall chief clarified this would be “a consequence of Arriva [London Railway] closing ticket offices.”

He said: “Offices closing down doesn’t mean you will lose the staff”, adding their will still be staff on platforms and at ticket barriers.

When asked about the increase in violent crime, the mayor honoured the four people stabbed to death in Islington’s streets over the past year.

He said: “It’s heartbreaking to the family but also has a really important effect on the community who feel unsafe.

“There is a link between cutting police officers and youth services and an increase in crime.”

On the economy, a precocious 13-year-old said: “£200,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on a beach party in the Royal Docks and you claimed it was growing London’s economy – how does a beach party grow London’s economy?”

Jenette Arnold joked he was “definitely made in Islington”.

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