A fundraiser will have to find £2.9m to help fit out a women’s centre on the former site of Europe’s largest women’s prison – whose famous inmates included Ruth Ellis and Rosemary West.
Developers Peabody agreed to appoint a fundraiser to find the money for the Women’s Building after it said it could not afford the cost as part of its £400m redevelopment of the derelict Holloway prison off Parkhurst Road.
The council’s executive has agreed to underwrite the cost from the community infrastructure levy that Peabody is paying towards the scheme – if it can prove it has made every effort to raise the money elsewhere.
The scheme will transform the site into 985 homes, including 415 affordable and shared ownership homes, a park and a Women’s Building to help women who have been in trouble with the law.
It includes tower blocks over 30 metres high, which is a departure from the council’s policy and has caused upset for nearby residents.
The deal hammered out between the council and Peabody, which bought the site for £82m from the Ministry of Justice, includes an “unprecedented” mid-stage viability review.
The overall scheme was approved by Islington’s planning committee last month.
If the scheme shows a surplus, it will be used to either convert the proposed shared ownership units into London Living Rent units, to kit out and run the Women’s Building, or to change additional market housing units to social rent.
Islington’s planning committee wanted to know how much surplus Peabody expected to make. If there is no deficit, the housing association said it anticipated a 17.5 per cent surplus.
The agreements are crucial for Peabody as London Mayor Sadiq Khan will now look at the scheme and decide whether to approve or reject it.
Peabody said it can get started on the multi-million pound building project this year if Khan approves the plan.
Project manager Tom Williamson said: “From the outset of this project we have committed to 60 per cent affordable housing.”
He added that the mid-stage review meant it would remove the overhead costs of affordable housing to cut the deficit by £5.5m.
Peabody said the scheme has a deficit of around £44m – but the council puts this much lower at £3.3m. The difference is because of the estimates of land values.
Williamson told the planning committee yesterday that further delays would put grant funding, which supports the extra affordable housing, “at significant risk”.
Campaigner Niki Gibbs said the community wants to buy a building earmarked for private homes from Peabody to create a Women’s Centre.
It follows concerns that the Women’s Building included in the plans is too small to offer therapy and support for women who have experience of the criminal justice system.
Gibbs said the community’s plan would mean “women will get the building that they need and deserve”.
She added: “This proposal will enable women to design, build and eventually run the building.”
Cllr Paul Convery said the planning process has taken a “gruelling” three years and paid tribute to campaigners who fought for changes.
He said: “We are disappointed that Peabody clearly has a business model in which it leverages extremely high property values in a place like Islington in order to cross-subsidise affordable homes elsewhere.”
He added: “This application will construct 400 unaffordable homes in a reasonably dense residential neighbourhood building at a density that is unseen anywhere else in our borough.
“We know that a lot of those unaffordable homes will not actaully go to people eager to live in our borough and put down roots.
“Until recently, they would probably have gone to Russian investors. They will go to overseas investors, they will go to buy-to-rent landlords. They will not be a terribly welcome presence in that part of Tufnell Park.”