Opening remarks by Richard Garside at the 'Holloway prison closure: What next for the land?' event in Islington, North London on Friday, 25 November 2016
Good evening and welcome to this important public meeting on the future of the Holloway prison site.
The organisation I and colleagues work for – the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies – is an independent charity, based in London.
We are funded by our members and supporters. We don’t take money from big business, or from government. We also don’t represent or promote the views of any one political party or interest.
In our work, we make the case for a shift from this country’s overreliance on criminal justice institutions like the police and prisons, and an investment in those public services – like health, education, housing, welfare, local government – that improve the lives of all of us.
Until earlier this year, Holloway prison was the largest women’s prison in western Europe. Its closure creates a big opportunity to build a lasting legacy, on the Holloway site, that benefits the local community.
Let’s remember: the Holloway prison site is public land. Holloway prison was a specialist form of public housing. Indeed, prisons appear to be the only kind of public housing the current government is interested in building.
The government plans to sell the Holloway site for redevelopment. It has already appointed consultants to manage the sale.
If nobody offers an alternative vision, it seems likely the land will be sold to developers for expensive, private housing.
What has been a public asset will become private property.
We do not think this is inevitable.
This public meeting is the first of a number we plan to hold over the next few years, to work with members of the local community, like those in this room this evening, to develop a community vision for the Holloway site.
- Maybe it should be used for council housing, or for other forms of affordable or accessible housing.
- Perhaps it could be the home for sports, arts or other community facilities.
- Maybe it should be a park or green space.
- Perhaps it could be a combination of all of these things, and more.
The vision for the Holloway prison site is one for those in this room, and the wider community, to develop, in discussion and debate.
Tonight is an opportunity to start the start of this discussion.