In October, we called on the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, to bid for the now closed Holloway prison site, in a joint letter signed by several other organisations and individuals. In the letter, we argued that a successful bid 'could set a benchmark for the disposal of prison sites and public land in London and across the country'.
On 10 November, Mr Khan announced, via twitter, that he had offered his assistance to the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that the site is released quickly to be developed 'for much needed new housing', and to avoid the possibility of the site 'being land banked... or even traded to another party'.
The Mayor has now written to us, setting out his plans in more detail. His letter can be downloaded below. He confirms that he has been working with Islington Council, setting out 'a clear expectation that at least 50% affordable housing should be delivered' on the Holloway site. He also indicates that he is likely to be consulted on any future development plans.
The nature of Mr Khan's intervention, while welcomed by many, has not gone without criticism. The Islington Gazette stated that the Mayor had 'rejected thousands of calls to bid for the empty Holloway Prison site'.
During Mayor's question time on 16 November, Green Party Assembly Member Sian Berry AM pressed him on his plans. 'The community plan for the Holloway prison site has received more than 900 submissions in response to a recent consultation. Property agents GVA Bilfinger, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, have stepped up their advertising for the Holloway prison site', she noted. And she asked: 'Have you investigated purchasing this land? If so, what is the GLA’s current position on this?”
In his response, Mr Khan, reiterated his concern that the site could be 'land banked' and lay empty for years. And he emphasised that he wanted to see affordable homes built as soon as possible. He also said he wanted to see community facilities and a women's centre.
Our Senior Associate, Rebecca Roberts, who is leading on our 'Community Plan for Holloway' work, said:
The Ministry of Justice have been clear that their main concern is profit, rather than considering the needs and views of the local community.
We will continue to urge the Mayor to put maximum pressure on the Ministry of Justice to ensure the site is developed in the interests of the community.