Council warns developers: affordable housing must be priority at Holloway

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In a draft planning guidance document published by Islington Council, developers have been warned that a minimum 50% affordable housing target must be met at the Holloway prison site.

The draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) has been published on the Council’s website in advance of an Executive Meeting due to take place on Thursday 13 July 2017.

A full copy of the papers, along with a summary of responses from the council consultation can be viewed here.

It is expected that the SPD will be out for consultation between 31st July and 25 September 2017. The document acknowledges that the Ministry of Justice wants to make maximum profit from the site, but warns that ‘the duty to achieve best value for the site does not outweigh the need to meet planning requirements’.

We, at Community Plan for Holloway, will be carefully examining the contents of the SPD and discussing with our partners.

Based on these discussions and informed by the survey responses we have received, we will be submitting a detailed response to the Council consultation.

Our initial response is that the 28 page document is very encouraging. Below we provide a quick summary of key points.

Summary points from the draft SPD for Holloway prison

The report acknowledges the importance of Holloway prison in the context of wider London prison land developments;

‘It is considered that this site represents an opportunity to demonstrate best practice and set a benchmark for the disposal of other public sector land in the capital. In order to meet Islington’s key priorities as well as the intended aspirations of the Ministry of Justice for the disposal of the site and those of the Mayor of London in developing surplus public sector land for housing it will be important for all stakeholders to work together.’

The Council also warns

‘The Ministry of Justice have made it clear that their primary objective for the disposal of the site is the maximisation of capital receipt to, in part, fund improvements to the prison estate elsewhere. It is however important to note that this does not override planning considerations or objectives for the site.’ 

Key planning objectives are identified on pages 9 and 10 of the document;

  1. The provision of housing and in particular maximising affordable housing to meet identified housing needs in the borough.
  2. The provision of a women’s building/centre that incorporates safe space to support women in the criminal justice system and services for women as part of a wider building that could also include affordable workspace to support local organisations and employment opportunities.
  3. Active uses along Parkhurst Road and Camden Road, this could include, for example, a small amount of retail provision.
  4.  Improvements to local infrastructure to support population growth, for example, health facilities and public transport.
  5. The provision of publicly accessible open green space including play space as part of a design that protects and enhances biodiversity, retains existing trees and provides high quality landscaping.
  6. High quality design that responds to the sites context and constraints and makes a positive contribution to the local character of the area.
  7. The connection of the site to the surrounding neighbourhood, increasing the site’s permeability, promoting walking and cycling.
  8. The provision of an inclusive environment which is accessible, invites people into the site, and facilitates community cohesion.
  9. The achievement of best practice sustainability standards, including the provision of an energy centre.

Affordable housing is identified as a key priority and the SPD makes the following points;

  1. The Council commissioned an urban design and site capacity study to assess indicative housing numbers. Four scenarios are outlined varying from 400 to 900 dwellings.
  2. The Council undertook a viability analysis of a scenario of around 600 units and concludes that a minimum of 50% affordable housing is achievable. On this basis it would involve a tenure split of 70% social rented and 30% shared ownership.
  3. The size of the site ‘would lend itself well to the provision of a genuine mix of unit sizes, including a significant proportion of family accommodation of 3 bedrooms or more.’
  4. As part of any planning application ‘the developer will also be required to sign a legal agreement to ensure that future residential units will not be left unoccupied

Non residential uses are also outlined in the SPD;

  1. ‘The existing land-use of the site, as a prison, can be considered to be a community use‘.
  2. ‘The prison preformed important rehabilitation and support functions to vulnerable women…. particular regard needs to be given to what support services are still required in the borough and London’.
  3. ‘The purposeful location of a number of women’s services into one building would be beneficial in assisting and enabling the rehabilitation and integration of hard to reach groups of women beyond those in the criminal justice system; including those that are vulnerable, homeless, and those that fall between services and agencies.’
  4. ‘The wider building could include affordable workspace to support local enterprises and employment opportunities, particularly for young people. There is also the potential to provide a service offer to the wider community with the provision of a range of well-being, therapeutic and family support services.’
  5. A small amount of retail may be acceptable to serve the local population’.
  6. ‘A site of this size is required to provide high quality, publicly accessible open space on site, which also includes formal play space and playable space. This should form a focal point of any new development, be legible and be connected by permeable routes. The provision of open and green space should be an integral part of the design of any scheme.’
  7. ‘A new public open space should be provided in the centre of the development’.
  8. Given the length of time that the planning and development process may take meanwhile (temporary) uses on the site prior to and, where appropriate, during implementation are strongly encouraged. This could include the temporary use of the buildings such as the visitors centre for community use and/or events and temporary use of spaces for public amenity67 (e.g. open spaces, pop-up events), in particular activating the large blank frontage on Parkhurst Road, bringing vitality into such a large blank space and bringing the local community together. Any proposals for temporary uses will be assessed for their amenity impact and their planning benefits.’

We have also published this summary as a Briefing Note.