Court victory could see ex-Pentonville Prison flats turned into housing

Islington protestors celebrate their victory over the Ministry of Justice

Islington protestors celebrate their victory over the Ministry of Justice - Credit: Debbie Humphry

Former Pentonville Prison flats could still be occupied by dozens of needy Islington families, following a court result. 

Islington Council has for several years looked to lease the 28 three and four-bedroom apartments but, since 2019, has been blocked by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

Last week, the authority announced the Planning Inspectorate had found in favour of the council - which could pave the way for the empty flats in Roman Way to come back into use. 

Council deputy leader Diarmaid Ward said “It was the result we were hoping for. There is a long history of us fighting to get these homes back into use.

“We actually completed a deal with the Ministry in 2019 to get these homes back into use. We agreed to take them over, do the renovations, and lease them from the MOJ. 

“[But] the MOJ pulled out of the deal at the very last minute. It was very disappointing.”

The Gazette previously reported the MOJ may have opted out to find a more profitable solution for the land. 

After blocking the council’s approach, the developer applied for a certificate of lawfulness as a first step towards offering the land to a developer. 

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This would have seen the developer bypass the need to get planning permission and build homes that could have been unaffordable to the 14,000-odd people on housing waiting list. 

Key to the council’s argument was that the flats are of a different planning class and tied to the prison - therefore not considerable for standard property resale. The Planning Inspectorate agreed.

It means that if any owner wishes to develop, they would need to apply for planning permission, where Islington Council’s requirement for 50 per cent of all homes to be ‘genuinely affordable’ kicks in. 

Cllr Ward stressed that ‘genuinely affordable’ means that 35pc must be for social rent and the other 15pc for an intermediate product - potentially a ‘living rent’ agreement. 

“We now want to work with the MOJ to get these homes back into use,” he said.

“The agreement we previously struck with them is still on the table. I am happy to meet with the ministry to hammer this out, any day of the week including Sunday.

“There are 28 flats and these could change the lives of 28 families in desperate need. Flats of this size are in dire need.”

The Ministry of Justice has declined to comment. 

It could potentially now reapply for a certificate of lawfulness or appeal the decision.