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Homes are left empty on prison site

Campaigning resident criticises Ministry of Justice over refusal to re-let three-bedroom Pentonville flats

12 May, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Jean Willson, who has lived near Pentonville prison all her life

A CAMPAIGNING resident has hit out at prison chiefs after discovering homes on the Pentonville prison site are sitting empty.

Jean Willson, who has lived near the Caledonian Road jail all her life, said it was “shocking” that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is refusing to re-let 22 empty three-bedroom flats – six flats in the four blocks continue to be occupied by prison staff – some of which have been empty for decades.

Ms Willson, chair­woman of Islington disability charity Centre 404, said: “It’s ridiculous that these flats are stand­ing empty at a time of huge need. I started my campaign because we’re always looking for housing for people with learning difficulties. I’ve written to [Justice Secretary] Liz Truss but received no reply.”

The Town Hall has urged prison governor Kevin Reilly to allow the authority to let the properties to households in need of temporary accommodation. Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Islington’s housing chief, said: “The MoJ is conducting a review of all prison property and at the moment they won’t release anything. It would be good if they would release that land for much-needed temporary accommodation.”

The council has a shortage of family accommodation and the flats at Pentonville are three-bedroom or larger. In total 806 households are currently living in temporary housing provided by the council, around a third of which are placed outside the borough. There are 19,000 households on the council’s waiting list.

The MoJ did not respond to a request for comment.

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