Protest planned over empty flats

Protest planned over empty flats
Credit Julia Gregory

Campaigners are staging a protest calling for empty prison officers’ flats beside Pentonville Prison to be used for homes.

They want to see 28 vacant Ministry of Justice flats used as family homes to help with the housing crisis.

Islington Homes for All will be joined outside Wellington Mews by council deputy leader Diarmaid Ward, councillors and other housing campaigners as they take their protest to the government. (SAT JULY 8 from 11.30am)

It is part of a long-running campaign calling on the Ministry of Justice to hand over the homes to Islington council.

Cllr Ward, who has responsibility for finance, planning and performance is urging the Ministry of Justice to sit down with him again to discuss the buildings’ future.

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It comes after the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed the Ministry of Justice has handed over £604,000 to Islington Council in empty council tax charges over the last seven years. It is paying 300 per cent council tax for any flats which have been empty for over a decade.

Security has been stepped up since the LDRS service reported that mailboxes were overflowing outside some of the flats and some front doors were wide open.

The protest on Saturday (JULY 8) is on the same day as housing campaigners are staging events to draw attention to the housing crisis.

Islington North Independent MP Jeremy Corbyn is sending them a message of support.

Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, has also called for the three- and four-bedroom empty flats to be used as family homes.

She said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the Ministry of Justice is paying hundreds of thousands of pounds every year just to keep these properties vacant, when there are homeless families in the local community desperate for the housing that could be provided there.”

She said after years of campaigning: “It is high time a solution was found for the collective good of the taxpayer and the local community.”

An application for a certificate of lawfulness for developers to transform the two blocks of flats was turned down at an appeal to the planning inspector in 2020.

The previous year a council proposal to turn the homes into short-term lets failed.

In May of this year, the prisons minister Damian Hinds told campaigners that “the Ministry of Justice has been and still are considering options for the property, including potential disposal.”

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