Over 180 residents and community campaigners attended a packed Community Plan for Holloway meeting on Friday 2 March. In what was a vibrant event, the audience heard from an anti-prison activist, housing campaigners and local residents who together called for the land on the former prison site to be used in the community interest.
The meeting began with a presentation, by the Centre's Deputy Director Will McMahon, of the draft Community Vision document, who asked the meeting to help finish the document by debating a strategy for ensuring that the vision could be turned into a reality. Three members of the Commuity Plan steering group, Alexandra Lilley (Reverend at St George's Church), Niki Gibbs (Reclaim Holloway) and Glyn Robbins (Islington Unite Housing branch) then spoke about the vision and what they wanted to see on the site. All focused on meeting the community needs for genuinely affordable housing, community services and green space. In particular, Niki Gibbs focused on the need for a women's building to be built as part of the development.
A lively debate, reported by the local press, then took place about how to ensure the vision was turned into a reality. The event concluded with a speech from constituency MP Jeremy Corbyn, who said:
We will win this if we campaign together and put the pressure on. We live in a wonderful city, but also one of of enormous pressure and tensions. If we don't change tack on housing priorities, the local area will be socially cleansed. Winning the argument will give us the opportunity to get good quality housing for the people that need it.
There was a definite mood in the room that the Community Plan, working alongside local residents and community groups, should be able to have an impact on how the site is developed and help to ensure a positive outcome.
The May local elections are on the horizon and the Community Plan aim is to ensure that all local council candidates are canvassed about their views with regard to what should happen to the Holloway site.