Housing chief slams MoJ for using HMP Holloway as 'cash cow'
PUBLISHED: 17:30 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:40 23 November 2018
Islington's housing boss blasted the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for using the former HM Holloway Prison as a "cash cow" last night - and the community again demanded the site be reopened and converted into council homes.
The event was organised by Community Plan for Holloway (CPH), a campaign group that’s spent the past two years lobbying for council homes and a women’s centre to be built in the former prison.
More than 150 people attended the meeting, in Williamson Community Centre, a short stroll from the abandoned Parkhurst Road women’s prison.
Islington’s housing boss Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: “This was put on the market was so the MoJ could generate the maximum possible capital receipts.
“As far as they were concerned this was a prime central London site that could be used as a cash cow to build prisons all over the country.
“I reckon the MoJ spat into their cornflakes when they saw our planning brief because it means the amount of money people will bid for the site is going to go down,
Cllr Ward was referring to Islington’s strict viability rules, which mean 50 per of any housing development of over 10 homes but be “genuinely affordable”.
He cited the council’s recent High Court victory, which incidentally relates to another would-be Parkhurst Road development, after buyers overbid for the land and then tried to circumnavigate Islington’s “genuinely affordable” homes commitment. Attendees were appreciative of this victory and its symbolic significance.
“We want a chance to get into the prison and see what’s behind the walls,” said Steve Fox, of Manalo & White Architects, has been helping to create a people’s blue print for the prison site.”
“If not we should all bring a heavy hammer and break into the prison to reclaim it for the Holloway community,” he joked.
George Osborne closed the Holloway Women’s Prison nearly three years ago. In 2016 property agency Bilfinger GVA was appointed to sell the site. But the MoJ recently conceded a buyer won’t be announced until 2019.
“Here we are again with no more information from the MoJ about what is happening in this jewel of a central London site,” said Alexandra Lilley, the priest at St George’s Tufnell Park.
“This piece of land must be used for the common good as an integrated part of our community here in Holloway.”
Andy Bain, of Islington Homes For All, told the Gazette: “We need to keep the pressure up to get maximum council housing, a women’s centre and green space.”
An MoJ spokesperson said: “We continue to work towards the sale of the site and will always seek best value for the taxpayer.”