Turning the Community Plan vision into a reality

Will McMahon's introduction to the launch of the Community Plan for Holloway draft vision document

Will McMahon
Tuesday, 06 March, 2018

Good evening everyone  - thanks to all of you for making this event - especially given the weather.

My name is Will McMahon, I am from the Community Plan for Holloway, and I will be facilitating this evening’s event.

The Community Plan is independent - our only role is to help the local communities of Islington get their voices heard about what should happen to the Holloway site.  We have been given a grant by an independent organisation, Trust for London, to carry out this role.

What we will be doing with our time is this:

I will talk very briefly about the vision that you have all had about how the former Holloway prison site might be developed.

Once I have introduced the vision we will have three five-minute responses from our speakers who aim to reflect the different voices that have been working with the Community Plan as partners.

Then it is over to you to discuss what you have heard  - I am hoping we will focus on what we can do next to ensure that the different communities in the room, and in Islington, are heard loud and clear when it come to the site being redeveloped.

At the end of the evening we are hoping that Jeremy Corbyn will talk about how he sees the future of the site.

So I will begin by saying three things:

  1. I have given myself ten minutes to cover 18 months of work so all I can do is cover key points to give you an idea of how we got here and where we might go next.
  2. It is a draft - so it is not yet perfect but part of tonight’s event is to help us to finish the document - I will explain how at the end of my introduction.
  3. What you will not see is anything like a detailed plan. The vision document tells a story of how we got here, feeds back to you the broad ideas you gave us.  Hopefully it sets the stage for future developments.

So, how did we get here?

Unlocking Holloway for the Community has been inspired by the more than 900 plus people and community groups who responded to a survey that the Community Plan organised. 

So this draft publication aims to bring together the main ideas that we heard from many of you in the room and lots of people in the local community.

Many of words and quotes you will read in the document are drawn straight from community responses to the survey - incidentally the graffiti you see was chalk graffiti put on the walls of the prison as part of a community action - it was then washed off.

A first clear message we heard was the community wanted:

A positive vision, one that will strengthen the communities and neighbourhoods that are at the heart of Islington  

This is a direct quote from a survey response.

The story so far

…tells us about how we got here…the key points are:

  • The prison was closed in the summer of 2016.
  • The Ministry of Justice owns the site and plans to sell it to developers.
  • The Community Plan was launched in November 2016 to ensure that local communities had a voice in what happened to the land. We have been working with community groups ever since - it would be true to say that without the support of many, many individuals and community groups the Plan would not exist - so really is your creation.
  • Throughout 2017, Islington Council consulted on its own planning guidance for developers who might want to build on the site. 
  • Also in 2017, the Community Plan carried out the survey, on-line but we also put 8,000 survey leaflets into homes surrounding the Holloway site  - and thank you to all of you who helped us do that - we had an army of volunteers to help with that - we had the over 900 responses due to your hard work.

While there was lots of detail in the council documents we decided it was important to ask just two questions:

  1. What did you want to see happen to the site?
  2. What did you not want to see?

During the months that people were filling in the survey, and throughout 2017, there was lots of community activity that made it clear that local people wanted to have a say in what happened next. In September we held a community open day announcing the results of the survey, and it is from the survey that we have drawn up this vision document. The last thing to point to is that the Ministry of Justice has said they will announce a preferred bidder in the next few months.

We asked the person who designed the document to create a picture from the survey results of what you had told us. This is the design in the middle of the vision document.

It is pretty clear really: you did not want to see private finance build a development that was unaffordable to local people. What you did want to see was homes that everyone could afford, places people can go,  and support for people when they need it in community facilities.

I don’t know about you but I don’t think that is too much to ask for.

Using quotes from the survey we have summed up the key messages on housing, community facilities and public space.

These quotes are just representative of what we heard -  we are boiling down at least 30,000 words that you sent in into nine short sentences. Summed up by the person who wrote

This is a chance to be truly imaginative…create a mixed community with a real heart

So that is the vision.

What does the future hold?

Unlocking Holloway for the Community is far from the final word, the fate of the Holloway site is still in the balance. There is a window of opportunity for local communities to establish their claim to the site. Media coverage is developing, local papers have reported on this from the start, BBC London News and the Evening Standard have started to cover this as a story. Islington Council’s agreed planning document has significant overlaps with what you told us in the survey.  What Islington Council says it wants to see is really important. The Mayor of London may yet have a crucial role to play in what might happen - he has the potential to support what is proposed for the site and also to challenge it. My thought is that if residents, local community groups and others in the community, can work together then a coalition can emerge so that the people who are making the decisions will find very hard to ignore.

The first step is the local elections in May  -  they will be a big opportunity to debate and discuss the issue locally.  We can use the final vision document to raise it as in issue during the campaign with every single candidate standing. But it is the 12 months after May that will be an important window of opportunity:

The big question is how do we turn a vision into reality?

What steps can we take as individuals and together that will ensure that the vision and ideas that the community has will come into being in some way? We might not get everything we want but how can we ensure we get a result that broadly reflects what the local community would like to see? I would like to focus on that this evening - what activities we can do together and the actions you can take to turn a vision into a reality.

On the final two pages there is space to write down your ideas - tear the page out (it is a draft document), and hand your ideas in tonight - we have a couple of people at the back collecting them. You can also send ideas to us by e-mail, text or post, the contact details are in the document.

At the end of March, once we have got these ideas together we will complete this vision document by creating a summary of them in these last pages and will publish the full document for you to use as part of the local election campaign and beyond.

So that is where we have arrived at this evening… I want to ask Alexandra, Niki, Glyn to give brief responses, then it is over to you to have your say…