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Local community debates Holloway prison site future

The future of the former Holloway prison site in north London will be discussed by local residents at a public meeting this coming Friday in Islington.

The meeting, at the Williamson Street Community Centre, will hear from the local MP, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn and the Mayor of Islington, Kat Fletcher. Other speakers will include housing campaigner Eileen Short, and Kate Paradine from Women in Prison.

Until its closure earlier this year, Holloway prison was the largest women’s prison in western Europe. The government wants to sell the site for redevelopment and has appointed commercial property consultants Bilfinger GVA to manage the sale.

The site sits at the heart of the densely populated London Borough of Islington, which faces an acute shortage of decent and affordable homes. Many in the area fear the redevelopment plans will prioritise expensive flats and luxury houses, priced out of the reach of most local people.

The public meeting on Friday is being organised by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, as part of our recently-launched Justice Matters for Holloway project. The project is working with the local people to develop a practical vision for decent and affordable homes for low-income Londoners on the Holloway site, along with associated community infrastructure. Friday’s meeting is the first step in this process.

Our Director, Richard Garside, said:

The Holloway prison site is a large piece of public land in a part of London with a major shortage in decent and affordable housing. We are working with local people in Islington to make sure that they have a big say in the future development of the land.

London is awash with expensive housing that ordinary Londoners will never be able to afford. We have the opportunity to build a lasting and positive legacy from the closure of a prison that has been the cause of so much pain and misery.

At the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies we are committed to doing everything we can to make sure this opportunity is not squandered.

Kate Paradine, Chief Executive of Women in Prison, said:

The closure of the only women’s prison in London is an opportunity for a fairer and more just approach to women affected by the criminal justice system and their families.

As well as housing, it’s a chance to invest in much needed community support services for domestic violence, mental health, substance misuse and general health and wellbeing. As it stands, London women are being sent to prison out of the city, very far from their children, and then struggling to successfully resettle upon release.

Now is the time for London to lead by example and show how having a safe and decent roof over your head and access to specialist support is the way forward to prevent and reduce women’s offending and create stronger and safer communities for all of us.