On Saturday 30th March around 60 local people gathered at St George’s Church in Tufnell Park for an emergency meeting to discuss the announcement that Peabody housing association had bought the Holloway prison site and would be developing it in partnership with private property developer London Square.
The meeting kicked off with talks from Will McMahon of the Community Plan for Holloway, Reverend Alexandra Lilley of St George’s Church, Claire Cain of Women in Prison and Steve Fox of Manalo and White architects. Issues raised during the subsequent discussion are presented below.
Peabody, London Square and AHMM architects
- Many negative comments about Peabody, including from several Peabody tenants from other boroughs, and a Lewisham Councillor involved in a Peabody development in Catford.
- Concerns raised over the builder London Square. For instance, a London Square development in Caledonian Road has billboards surrounding it saying ‘outdoor space guaranteed’ but now it is complete it is clearly very high density and the outdoor space must be very small.
- People highlighted the size of Peabody and its significant growth over the last five years. This coupled with legislative changes has meant they behave in a less socially-oriented.
- The architects were said to be good and based in Islington, with some of the individual architects living in the borough.
- Peabody are also involved in selling their social housing. Need to keep an eye on them selling off housing on the Holloway site years after it is built. Should explore feasibility of some form of governance structure once the site is completed and people are living in the properties.
- Be aware that developers will renege on social provision based on fluctuations in the economy or housing market.
- Peabody’s definition of ‘affordable rent’ questioned as there are Peabody tenants who cannot afford their rent.
- Peabody don’t have a direct labour organisation to carry out construction. They employ conventional organisations and on one site this includes Rydon, who refurbished Grenfell Tower before the fire.
- People dubious about Bob Kerslake, Chair of Peabody, as they have seen him say £150 a week rent is reasonable.
Planning process and community involvement
- Want to be clear about the nature of community involvement – we do not want to be consulted, the community needs to be part of the governance process and have a strong formal structure in place.
- Should push to make sure the community is involved in the procurement process. There are models from elsewhere about how this can be achieved.
- Need a memorandum of understanding between the new Community Plan organisation, local representatives and the Peabody board.
- Need to make sure the community is involved even if Peabody have no further consultation requirements now they have bought the site. They should come to us not the other way round.
- Community needs to somehow exercise control over how much the development costs otherwise there will be pressure to cut down on social aspects.
- The Design Council and Islington Council can provide additional overview and we should ask Peabody to agree their involvement.
- Need to speak to Peabody as soon as possible. No need to wait for summer. And we need to speak to Peabody themselves, not a consultancy.
- People requested a public meeting with the Mayor’s office to answer the community’s questions.
- The architects and planners group Community Plan for Holloway have put together will keep an eye on the technicalities of the build throughout.
Campaign issues and ideas
- The campaign needs to be broadened to include prospective residents of the development.
- The Women’s Building Group will be making sure that although services in the Women’s Building will be available to all women regardless of any involvement in the criminal justice system, former Holloway prisoners and women affected by criminal justice should be prioritised.
- Need to do work around getting greater representativeness at Community Plan meetings.
- Suggested that the campaign gets help from current Peabody tenants.
- Should explore the possibility of a community-led theatre production inside the prison before demolition takes place. What is the best way to pitch this and get the maximum community involvement?
- Need to reflect on campaign tasks local people could be getting on with, such as mass mailings.
- Islington Pensioners’ Forum want to be involved in the planning process and the campaign.
- Many people questioned why 100 per cent of the housing couldn’t be genuinely affordable or for homeless people. We should aim to get even more genuinely affordable homes in the development.
- People interested to know whether there will be any facilitation for local people to buy the private homes on the site.
- Islington Council has a ‘buy-to-leave’ policy on new developments so the private homes can’t be bought by property investors and left empty.
- Social and private housing units are built to different specifications, meaning there is a division in quality between the different tenures.
- Questions raised about how the former use of the site should be commemorated. Suggested that the whole site be a commemoration and a place of hope rather than the place of pain its previous use represented.
- Major urban design constraints on the site highlighted, e.g. it has three closed sides. Need a better context for this development and for it to be made safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Chronic lack of green space in Islington highlighted.
- The Council’s planning guidance said 900 housing units on the site would be overdevelopment, so we need to know how Peabody came up with 1,000 units and why that is now an acceptable number of homes.
- People don’t want more student accommodation.
- Development should be built to be accessible to older people rather than adapted afterwards.
- Impact of development on current residents needs to be assessed. What will be the effect on schools, GPs etc.
- There should be provision for young people.
- Some favour terraced designs with private outdoor space (e.g. Blenheim Court in Marlborough Road) over high-rise with open space that nobody owns in between.
- Some want to explore having some cohousing on the site, which works well for families and older people. Suggested we arrange a group to go to a North London housing coop to explore the model.
- Working out what the formula is for deciding the ratio of each housing size/type (e.g. family size, single etc.) is an ongoing process. The real need in the borough is said to be for family size units.
- Mayoral policy in the Mayor’s London Plan is to have 10% provision for vulnerable groups on new developments so supported housing for women may be included in that.
- The developers are going to look to build more to make a return, resulting in a lack of daylight in the homes. A large proportion of the homes won’t get their quota of daylight, and green spaces will highly shadowed. All this can be tested and we need to make sure those tests are made public. The whole process needs transparency.
- The development should be something London is proud of as a city.
- Needs to be investment in ongoing services on the site as they will be needed by the new residents.
- Shelter from the Storm will be running the temporary homeless shelter in the visitors centre.
Comment by James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing (Greater London Authority)
- 60% affordable including 42% social is a good start, and these proportions are actually requirements of the loan to Peabody.
- Priorities mentioned by the audience chime with priorities of Mayor’s office.
- City Hall has a say in the planning process, although Islington leads.
- Mayor’s office wants to get involved with us as early as possible to get our ideas and so on.
Over the next few weeks and months Community Plan will be meeting with Peabody and James Murray and we will feed-back on what we learn.
Community Plan for Holloway would like to thank Francis Ware for once again providing the beautiful photographs of the day.