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Holloway Prison site homes: Mayor of London under fire

Campaigners in jumpsuits urge Khan to intervene to make sure land remains in public hands

26 October, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Demonstrators outside People’s Question Time

HOUSING campaigners once again called this week for the Mayor of London to step in over the sale of Holloway Prison land.

Islington Homes for All campaigners clad in jumpsuits mirroring historic prison uniforms demonstrated outside Sadiq Khan’s People’s Question Time at Islington Assembly Hall on Tuesday.

They called on him to intervene to make sure the land remains in public ownership.

Andy Bain, from the campaign group, said: “There are lots of things he could do, whether that’s in the form of buying the land outright to making financial arrangements in collaboration with the government or the council. We are saying he needs to do more.”

The Tribune understands the delayed ann­ouncement on who the confirmed buyer is for the site is expected before the end of the year.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at the People’s Question Time at Islington Assembly Hall

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said in the summer it was “not the best time in the market” to be selling the former wom­en’s prison, which closed in 2016. Islington Council has set a planning brief demanding that half the homes built on the 10-acre site are “genuinely affordable”.

Mr Bain said the campaign group wants council homes built on the site to help the 14,000 people on the housing waiting list. The group has written several letters to the Mayor asking him to keep the land in public hands, to maximise the number of council homes that can be built there.

“The only thing we got back, secondhand, was that he said he had volunteered to the government to help with the planning process,” said Mr Bain.

The Mayor’s office said Mr Khan did respond in January to a petition calling for his involvement.

The People’s Question Time at Islington Assembly Hall. Pictures: Mayor of London

Speaking at the packed question time, held twice a year in different London boroughs, the Mayor praised the council’s planning brief, and added: “If it’s [the buyer’s], say, a registered social landlord, for example, we want to make sure that the types of homes they build are either for social rent or homes where you pay the London Living rent or shared ownership part-buy, rather than luxury penthouses left empty, as many are across London.”

This week, the Town Hall secured £24.2m of funding from the Mayor’s office for housebuilding. The authority says the money will allow it to build an additional 131 council homes, on top of 550 council homes plan­ned by 2022.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “City Hall and local councils cannot afford to buy all public sector land in London. The Mayor’s team worked very closely with Islington earlier this year to publish a planning brief which makes it clear that whoever buys the former Holloway Prison site will have no excuses for delivering anything less than 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes.”

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