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Mayor: We need prison site homes right now

Sadiq Khan speaks out over fears Holloway land could be left unused ‘for decades’

17 November, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Sadiq Khan: ‘It’s absolutely crucial we do not run the risk of this prized asset being ‘landbanked’ and left unused for decades’

SADIQ Khan has urged the government to ensure that valuable land at the Holloway Prison site is used to build genuinely affordable housing as quickly as possible.

In a significant intervention, the London Mayor raised fears that the site could be “landbanked” – a process which would leave it lying idle and unused for years.

Town Hall policy states that at least half of the new homes at the Camden Road site should be classed as “affordable”. A planning brief produced by the council shows at least 200 social-rent homes could be built on the 10-acre site without any subsidy.

Tuesday was the deadline for bidders to submit an interest in the site. Housing campaigners had been calling on the mayor to make a bid himself. More than 5,000 people signed a petition online calling on him to do so.

Islington Axe the Housing Act and Islington TUC staged a protest outside the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) building in Westminster just before the bid deadline at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Richard Burgon threw his weight behind the campaign on Wednesday. “Pressure on the MoJ is mounting,” he said. “The MoJ decision will be a test of the Tory government’s commit­ment to genuinely affordable housing.”

Protesters at the Ministry of Justice building in Westminster on Tuesday

Mr Khan is concerned about the government’s disposal process – with the site being offered to purchasers with no restrictions or constraints.

Property agency GVA Bilfinger advertised the land as having “the potential to deliver a significant residential development of perhaps over 1,000 apartments” – but there was no mention of social housing.

Mr Khan has written to Justice Secretary David Lidington offering the help of City Hall housing and land experts. They could work with the MoJ to secure the best deal at the site, with money reinvested in the government’s prison reform programme while ensuring genuinely affordable homes are built quickly.

The Mayor said: “Holloway Prison is a major site capable of delivering a large number of new and affordable homes for Londoners. It’s absolutely crucial we do not run the risk of this prized asset being ‘landbanked’ and left unused for decades.

“London desperately needs new and affordable homes right now. I am offering to work with the government – with help from my experienced Homes for Londoners team – to ensure this site not only achieves good value to be reinvested in the prison service, but also that it is built on quickly and delivers hundreds of new and genuinely affordable homes.”

Islington’s Labour housing chief Diarmaid Ward said: “This is a clear sign to the MoJ and potential developers that City Hall are behind us on this. There will be no backroom deals as there was with Mount Pleasant under Boris.

“We will use every power we have to ensure we get as much genuinely affordable housing as possible. This is not just window dressing – there are 18,000 people on Islington’s housing register.”

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