The needs of the local community, not commercial developers, should be at the heart of plans to redevelop the Holloway prison site, Will McMahon argues
The government is planning to sell the former Holloway prison site. The land sits at the heart of the densely populated London Borough of Islington and is prime real estate. It is also a prime community asset.
The burning question is: how is the land to be developed?
As previously reported, the government has handed the contract for the sale of the land to commercial property consultants Bilfinger GVA. Many people in Islington are worried that yet another development of expensive flats, estimated to cost £500,000 each and unaffordable to most people living in Islington, will be built if an alternative community plan does not succeed.
Holloway may be a test case for other inner city prison closures that are part of the government’s prison reform programme.
Another way is possible
For the Centre, the redevelopment of the site could be emblematic of our Justice Matters project, which aims to radically downsize the footprint of criminal justice in our society, build alternatives to dealing with the social harm that we all experience, and in doing so transform the kind of society that we live in.
With this in mind, we have just launched a two-year project – Justice Matters for Holloway: A community plan – which is putting the local community at the heart of redevelopment plans for the former women's prison in north London. The project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Trust for London.
For the project to work there are three key ingredients.
First, the voice of the local community must be central to any discussion about how the land should be developed. Islington is a borough with many different needs: from genuinely affordable housing, to community facilities for the most vulnerable members of the population. The need for green space in an area that is one of the most built up and traffic congested zones of the capital is also pressing.
The Centre will be hosting a public meeting in Holloway on 25 November with the local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, and others to introduce the project and hear from the local community their initial ideas about how it should develop.
Second, the project will be drawing on the skills of professional architects and planners who want to work in collaboration with the local community to ensure that the visions that are developed – there may be more than one – can have real purchase with both local and national government as the debate about how the land should be used takes shape.
Third, we need your support to ensure that the community plan can have the greatest impact on the national stage. In addition to the support we're receiving from Trust for London, we are contributing some of our own money.
Supporters of the Centre's work can help us in a number of ways:
- If you have ideas about how the site might be developed or know people who have been involved in a community development project then let us know.
- If you live in Islington, or have friends or family who live there, then spread the word about the community plan – and get involved.
- If you want to ensure that the voice of the community is heard as loud and clear as possible, then please consider supporting the work of this project by making a donation.
There is a long way to go on the development of the Holloway site. It may be some time before a spade goes into the ground. So there is time ahead to develop the community vision and create a plan that works for the communities of Islington.
You can play a role in making sure that the closure of Holloway can lead to the building of community resources that will help to meet the housing and community needs that are so often at the heart of why people end up in the criminal justice system.