Overhaul of Holloway jail site gets green light

Approval after controversial vision led to backlash from neighbours

Friday, 11th March — By Charlotte Chambers

holloway women's building D_options_V16_210702_1_ _1_

An illustration of how the Holloway prison site may look with nearly 1,000 new homes and a public park

NEARLY 1,000 homes will be built on the Holloway Prison site – along with a park and an “iconic” women’s building – after the controversial scheme finally got the go-ahead.

But developer Peabody was warned that it must still fulfil a list of council demands and plough any profits from the scheme back into the borough.

Hundreds of objections have been raised since the proposals were first revealed three years ago. On Tuesday, the discontent was still there as a planning meeting ran for four hours.

The developer bought the 10-acre site on Parkhurst Road in 2019 after the Ministry of Justice closed the prison in 2016.

Peabody came out fighting this week, insisting it was completely “committed” to the project, which it sees as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Some 415 of the 985 homes will be made available at council housing rents, the meeting heard.

The deal is not completely over the line, though, with another committee meeting scheduled to see how much of the profits from the site are re-invested into Islington.

Labour councillors Jenny Kay and Paul Convery called on Peabody to reinvest everything from the sales of private housing on the site, minus the cost of building, back into Islington – by converting more private homes back into London Living Wage properties or even council rent homes.

Acknowledging the pain caused to objectors by green lighting the scheme, councillor after councillor stated what a difficult decision it had been and how it had been “very finely balanced” between the benefits outweighing the harm.

Cllr Kay told objectors “we really recognise how much harm this development will do to some of the neighbouring estates”, while planning chair Councillor Dave Poyser said the approval “was done on balance. I think a lot of us had many misgivings – particularly the light to Penderyn Way and Trecastle Close”.

At an earlier meeting, objectors had described how, at 50 metres, some of the towers on the site had “bust through” Islington’s own tall building regulations.

Nikki Gibbs, who criticised Peabody for not fitting out the women’s building, said: “How is an empty shell exceptional? A single floor under a block of flats. If you want an exceptional example of the continued suppression and discrimination of women, this is it – and this, on a legacy site for women no less.”

Neighbours also lined up to decry the plans. Chair of the Bakersfield Residents’ Association, Helen Strongman, described how “trust has been eroded” by a lack of consideration about the impact towering buildings would have on their homes and gardens.

“Hundreds of residents will see significant reductions in daylight and sunlight,” she told the committee, adding: “Existing residents do not feel that their rights are being treated as equal to prospective residents of the site.”

Other objectors were unhappy that there weren’t going to be new community spaces for all residents – including those who won’t live in the new development.

Dick Mortimer, of Peabody, told councillors requesting profits be reinvested in Islington: “You’re asking me to say if we make any sort of surplus on this scheme that every single penny goes back into the scheme itself – you’re asking us to take all the risks and none of the benefit of that risk.”

Earlier on, project director Tom Wilkinson told the panel how the scheme would benefit Islington by taking “the equivalent of two wards” off the social housing list, as well as providing a women’s building “the size of a two-form primary school”.

He added: “The quality of homes across all tenures is genuinely exceptional.”

And architects described how the women’s building was in the “most prominent location” on the site, with a public entrance in Camden Road that represented a “key gateway into the site, wrapping around a 540-square-metre dedicated women’s garden”.

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