‘Find the money and you can have women’s building on prison site’

Proposals to buy a plot of land at former Holloway jail get a cautious welcome

Friday, 8th April — By Charlotte Chambers

Holloway Prison gateway

THE possibility of a “unique” women’s building on the legacy Holloway women’s prison site moved one step closer this week – following years of campaigning – after proposals to buy a plot of land on the site were cautiously welcomed by both Peabody and Islington.

Campaigners were told at a planning meeting on Monday that if they could find the money to pay for the land and the building, then it would be theirs.

It follows the approval of the massive redevelopment last month, when the planning committee greenlit Peabody’s plans to build a series of 14-storey towers and around 1,000 new homes at the Parkhurst Road site.

Despite a massive backlash from neighbouring homes and campaigners – who wanted to see plans thrown out and completely redrawn over a series of concerns – councillors argued the shortage of housing in Islington was so acute that they had to find a balance between competing needs.

Niki Gibbs from the Community Plan for Holloway (CP4H) women’s building working group said they were all “still in shock” and “digesting” the news that should they be able to raise the money they could finally have their own building, as opposed to the single floor in a tower block they had been offered.

“It’s put such a positive edge on everything – this can happen now,” she said. “We have a goal. We have something to talk to funders and future stakeholders and to women [about]. We’ve got something we can describe: we want a building on block E2.”

She said work was now under way to form a charity and start drumming up funding, but first Peabody must quote them a figure for the cost of the land and possible profit they could have made from the building.

But the reverberations from that evening go on: “The fact that a councillor actually asked the question of Peabody ‘is this viable?’ and Peabody said reluctantly ‘yes’ – and the fact that [Islington housing chief] Diarmaid Ward shook my hand and said if you can get a good plan to get the money he’d support us – I’d say that’s OK!”

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