Letters: Holloway Prison site development

An artist's impression of what the former Holloway Prison site could look like 

An artist's impression of what the former Holloway Prison site could look like - Credit: Peabody

Holloway Prison site plan not clear in consultation

Jonathan Ward, member of Community Plan For Holloway, writes:

Peabody have at last launched their second consultation on the redevelopment of the Holloway Prison site.

Unfortunately the masterplan presentation is very patchy and key information is left out which makes it impossible to fully understand and assess the quality of the proposal. It includes generic descriptions of design approaches but gives no details of how these apply to the project, despite repeated requests by Community Plan for Holloway for more information.

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

Holloway Prison - Credit: Archant

Number of homes. The number of homes to be built is not stated. This is essential information. At the most basic level it allows respondents to understand the site density and compare it with the last proposal, or the LBI site Capacity Study, which for example, states that 880 homes would be overdevelopment. 

Building Heights and sections. No cross sections are provided or confirmation of building heights, and no comparison with other similar projects. Heights were at least provided last time around but have inexplicably been omitted now.

Dual aspect design. The document states that 95pc of the apartments are dual aspect. This is a welcome initial target, but around 50 of the homes will still be single aspect and at risk of overheating, but it is not at all clear how even 95pc is achieved. 

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The continuous block facing the Camden Road will have a number of single aspect apartments on a central corridor, and the elderly care accommodation appears to be all single aspect, prone to overheating. Also example internal layouts are provided but two out of three illustrate single aspect homes.

Sunlight information. The information provided showing sunlight percentages in the site is unexplained and risks being highly misleading. It suggests high percentages of sunlight in spaces that are on the north side of tall buildings, which can’t obviously be the case.

Consultation. The consultation is only being run for three weeks, with no public meetings for explanation or discussion of the plans.

The former Holloway Prison site.

An aerial view of the former Holloway Prison site is being redeveloped. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The content of the questionnaire itself is woeful, including disgracefully coercive questions that makes any unknowing respondent support the scheme unless they say that they need more information or don’t agree with the aspirations. 

It is poorly drafted, including duplicate questions, and appears to be specifically designed to avoid collecting meaningful information on topics that the community are most concerned about. Some of the questions are downright misleading. 

For example stating that building heights are reduced when in fact some buildings are taller than proposed in the last masterplan. There appears to have been no attempt made to improve on the diversity of the consultation, to specifically include less well-represented communities. Community Plan for Holloway engaged extensively.

Peabody should correct the deficiencies in their consultation, and re-run it, giving more time for the community to understand what is being proposed and respond in a meaningful way. 

The community will have lots of comments on the proposals but it is incredibly embarrassing and disappointing that first we have to overcome the twin hurdles of poor presentation and poor consultation. Go to: plan4holloway.org/news-comments/

Back to drawing board for Peabody

Andrew Wilson, Tavistock Terrace, Tufnell Park, writes:

In his novel 1984, George Orwell famously invented three Party slogans:

“War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength”

In two years of public consultation on redeveloping the 10-acre Holloway Prison for Women, Peabody Trust and its consultants have nearly equalled Orwell in linguistic inventiveness:

“A floor is a building
Exhibition is communication
Erasure is legacy”

Peabody’s consultation with community and women’s groups in Islington has been at best inept and at worst arrogant. Its latest masterplan and questionnaire which went live on July 9 – a generous 18 hours after local groups were invited to “comment” on them – continue in the same vein.

The masterplanning team for the Holloway Prison redevelopment is led by award-winning architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

The masterplanning team for the Holloway Prison redevelopment is led by award-winning architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris - Credit: Peabody

Peabody is still describing a single floor tucked away in a tower block as a “Women’s Building”. Unless their architects AHMM have a Tardis technology they haven’t yet shared with us, Peabody expects people to accept that a floor is a building (so long as it is dedicated to services for women).

In place of public discussions, Peabody has offered “exhibitions” (their term). In the pre-pandemic exhibition, yellow stickies and stubby pencils were helpfully provided for comments; the latest online version makes it even easier for us with questions like Number 12: “Islington would like to see housing - and affordable housing - as a priority for the site, do you agree with this?” (No, I honestly think it should be rebuilt as an adventure theme park called Borisland…). For Peabody then, Exhibition is communication (so long as communication is one-way).

Finally, the masterplan assumes the citizens of Islington, London, and the UK are desperate to forget the 10s of thousands of women banged up in Holloway between 1852 (the year George Peabody first started building houses for London’s poor) and 2016: the Suffragettes, the Greenham Common protesters, the mothers and sisters and children, those who worked there, those who died there. Physical reminders of the past? Historical references in names? Virtually nothing. For Peabody, Erasure is legacy (don’t mention the prison!).

Fortunately, the architectural profession seems to be waking up to the massive missed opportunity in front of us. Take for example an online comment in the journal Building Design that appeared hours after the new masterplan was first reported,

“It has all the aesthetics of a barracks. Sorry Peabody and AHMM you can do so much better.”

Let’s hope they do.