'Scandal' of 100 flats empty for 25 years – as Islington suffers housing crisis
PUBLISHED: 07:34 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 17:48 25 January 2019
Tower blocks at the back of Pentonville Prison could be housing Islington families in desperate need of a home. Instead, they are lying vacant with trees growing out of them.
That is the furious message of campaigner Jean Willson, who claims about 100 units off Roman Way have been empty for the past 25 years.
She, along with town hall housing leader Cllr Diarmaid Ward, is calling for the Ministry of Justice to release the shells and help deal with Islington’s shortage of temporary homes.
The blocks were built for prison officers’ accommodation, but only six flats are said to currently be in use.
Mrs Willson, chair of Holloway’s Centre 404 charity, lives across the road and said: “I pass by this block daily. It has trees growing out of it. They have been allowed to decay and rot.
“I can’t bear seeing all these empty flats when we have such a massive housing crisis in the borough. It’s absolutely scandalous. Some people in this borough are desperate.
“It’s criminal when Islington Council would occupy those flats tomorrow and put people up to ease this crisis. Something needs to be done.”
Cllr Ward said: “We would love to get our hands on these, especially because there’s quite a few four-beds in there. This would be ideal for temporary accommodation – we would use them tomorrow if we could.
“We have many families living in temporary accommodation outside the borough, away from their schools and other facilties. This would be ideal for them.
“We have raised this with the governor of Pentonville, but unfortunately his hands are tied. Our understanding is that the Ministry of Justice [MOJ] has put a freeze on releasing any of the Pentonville land.”
Cllr Ward added: “As a borough, we need to lobby the MOJ over this. It’s a real crying shame, and we need the people of Islington to join us in making their voices heard.”
The MOJ said it was unable to comment on the matter due to purdah ahead of next month’s general election.