Comment

No justice without housing justice

Whilst we need as much genuinely affordable housing as possible on the former Holloway Prison site, the Ministry of Justice can help ease the housing crisis immediately by releasing the empty homes at Wellington Mews, near Pentonville Prison.

The last prisoners left HMP Holloway in July 2016, 164 years after the prison opened. The land is owned by the Ministry of Justice, but any new use for the site must be approved by Islington Council’s Planning Committee.

Our borough faces a housing crisis like never before. We have over 19,000 people on our housing register and 806 households placed in temporary accommodation. Islington Council is already committed to seeing 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes built in the borough by 2019, including 500 new council homes. More than 200 genuinely affordable homes are currently under construction. 2017-18 will see 131 council houses for social rent completed, the most council homes built in Islington since 1987.

The history of Holloway Prison is intertwined with the pursuit of social justice. Whilst the suffragettes imprisoned at Holloway fought for votes for women, today’s fight is about decent housing, making sure that everyone has a safe and secure home.

The Council’s vision for the Holloway site is to deliver as much genuinely affordable housing as possible. Our planning policies require that at least 50% of the new homes that are delivered across the borough are genuinely affordable to local people.

The Council’s Planning and Development Service is currently developing a Supplementary Planning Document for the site. A preliminary consultation in March and April 2017 led to a tremendous response from local residents, with over 300 submissions.

There will be another public consultation later this year.

Though the Ministry of Justice owns the land, the Council’s Supplementary Planning Document is a chance to make any new development work for the local community, and we are committed to an ongoing open dialogue.

Any plan for the Holloway site is going to take time. But the Ministry of Justice has the opportunity to make a real difference to Islington’s housing crisis immediately.

Islington has also been the home of HMP Pentonville since 1842.  Just beyond the perimeter wall of HMP Pentonville sits Wellington Mews, a total of 28 flats. Originally used as accommodation for prison staff, the vast majority of these homes have been empty for many years.

The Ministry of Justice can help right now by allowing Islington Council to use the empty flats at Wellington Mews as much needed genuinely affordable housing. A Ministry of “Justice” is not worthy of its name if it chooses to continue leaving much needed homes empty.

We stand ready to work with the Ministry of Justice to make sure that these homes are put back into use.

Diarmaid Ward is Councillor for Holloway Ward and the Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council.