Holloway prison plans for thousands of new homes deferred

Artist's impression of the redevelopment of the Holloway prison site

Artist's impression of the redevelopment of the Holloway prison site, which Peabody plans to transform into homes with a park, commercial site and women's building - Credit: AHMM/Peabody

A decision over a “once-in-a-lifetime” development of 1,000 new homes on the Holloway prison site has been deferred over concerns about the mix of housing and facilities and the future of a women’s centre.

Councillors on Islington's planning committee wanted more details about how the multi-million pound plans would be “tenure-blind” .

Housing association Peabody wants to knock down the 164-year-old Victorian prison and replace it with 985 homes and offices in 15 buildings up to 14 storeys high, as well as two parks.

The scheme includes five blocks of homes – 60 per cent of which are affordable – and homes for people needing extra care.

There would also be a women’s building designed to reflect the site’s history, offering rehabilitation services for women with experience of the criminal justice system and also community use for women who live nearby.

However, Peabody said it cannot afford the £2.9m needed to fit out the women’s centre without getting funds from elsewhere, as the scheme has a deficit.

Councillors are concerned that Peabody will deliver a “shell”.

Holloway was once the largest women’s prison in Europe

Holloway was once the largest women’s prison in Europe and high-profile inmates included Ruth Ellis, who was the last woman to be hanged - Credit: AHMM/Peabody

Most Read

Community Plan for Holloway said: “Legacy and women’s history should have been at the heart of this development, not applied as an afterthought.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for women and for the capital, which is in real danger of being missed.”

The group feels it should have more space rather than just one floor.

Peabody said it was twice the size of the prison’s education block.

Holloway was the largest women’s prison in Europe and high-profile inmates included Ruth Ellis, who was the last woman to be hanged, and child killers Myra Hindley and Rose West.

The last cell door clanged shut in 2016 and the Ministry of Justice sold the four-hectare site to Peabody for £81.5m in 2019.

The new development will see an estimated 3,500 new residents and people living nearby say there are not enough facilities for them – with no new community centre.

Eleven objectors spoke of various concerns at a planning meeting in Islington’s assembly hall.

The socially distanced Holloway prison planning meeting, in Islington Assembly Hall

The socially distanced Holloway prison planning meeting, in Islington Assembly Hall - Credit: Islington Council

The socially distanced Holloway prison planning meeting, in Islington Assembly Hall

The socially distanced Holloway prison planning meeting, in Islington Assembly Hall - Credit: Islington Council

Councillors wanted to know why there are no homes offered at London Living Rent instead of shared ownership, which they fear is out of reach for many people.

Cllr Paul Convery said: “I am a little concerned about no affordable tenure except for shared ownership.”

Peabody’s project director Tom Wiliamson said: “The scheme is in deficit so we can’t change it to London Living Rent – it would be a different cost to us. By doing shared ownership we can deliver the 415 affordable homes.”

Cllr Nick Wayne asked why owner occupiers and shared ownership tenants would not be sharing the same block to build an integrated community “rather than being segregated”.

Williamson said it was to keep service charges “to a minimum for social residents”.

He said residents would share facilities including the park and community rooms, which could include a cinema and gym, as well as play areas across the estate.

Some of the buildings exceed the council’s 30-metre height policy.

Penderyn Way resident Neil Kahawatte said: “Due care and consideration has not been taken with the design of this scheme.”

He said it would affect light for residents and the buildings are “oversized”.

Peabody said the taller buildings were set back and some of them were stepped to reduce the impact.

Building engineer Jonathan Ward said there are too many homes – 36 per cent more than the council’s capacity estimate for the site.

“It is a travesty that it will be such poor quality," he said. 

Project director Williamson said developers had listened carefully to residents over the last three years and changed the plans after hearing from them.

“We feel passionately that the proposals are of the highest quality,” he added.

He stressed the development is tenure-blind.

Islington Homes for All said most of the social housing will be on the polluted and noisy Parkhurst and Camden roads.

Peabody said 44pc of homes on those streets were social, with just seven per cent for market rent and the remainder for shared ownership.

Cllr Ibrahim said he was “shocked” that 93 per cent of the homes facing the busy street will be affordable homes and wants Peabody to look at it again.

After over three and a half hours of discussion, the decision was deferred until March 8.