Holloway is no longer anything like its moniker ‘the castle’ or the imposing structure depicted in the 2015 film Suffragette. The prison, a focus of women’s rights for over a century, was completely rebuilt in the 1980s and is now set for demolition again, having been put up for sale last year.

Holloway Prison Site, picture courtesy of GVA

I decided to ask my students: what should a developer build on it? They each returned 2,500 words of ideas. By the way, I haven’t given them their marks yet, so shush, don’t tell them the answer. Oh, and I should add, given the political interest in the site, I decided to make it more interesting. How about a shopping centre?

The question was designed to get the students thinking about the many different stakeholders a site may have and the planning system within which those needs are balanced. A private sector seeking profit is not always at odds with other interests.

The stated intentions of government for housing are clear from party manifestos, including that of one Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, right through to the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) especially prepared for the sale of this site. The ten-acre site could fit nearly one thousand homes, a significant portion of Islington Council’s 1,264 annual unit target. Other objectives, stated by the SPD, include 50% affordable housing, a women’s centre and, perhaps, just a “small” amount of retail. How would my students feel about pressing for a shopping centre against such overwhelming evidence in support of housing?

Try as they might, my faithful students presented me with drawings, financial models and a list of worthy references, and yet only one of them in the end was prepared to commit fully to a shopping centre. Broadly, the key commercial consideration, correctly identified by most, is that the site is too far from existing local retail centres for a community mall and too small to compete with the Westfield centres anchoring East and West of London. Housing made greater commercial sense.

A couple of students of course, sensed my ruse early, justified their immediate dismissal of the idea of a shopping centre and relaxed with their proposals for housing. However, that may not have given them the opportunity to try and see a development proposal from another’s perspective, whatever that perspective may be.

But by and large the students recognised the significance of the site, hallowed ground for issues of women’s health, justice and suffrage. My students may or may not feel the relative luxury of the hypothetical, their final marks dependent on their answer. But fair play to them, a statue or monument to women was included in many of their proposals without any significant impact on the Internal Rate of Return. Future developers, take note.

Happy International Women’s Day from Bayfield Training

• Natalie Bayfield is a senior fellow for the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge and Chairwoman of Bayfield Training. Natalie pioneered Real Estate Financial Modelling as a subject in its own right 20 years ago. She believes in female role models and has worked to inspire thousands of men and women in Real Estate ever since.
• The assignment was set for students studying for the part-time professional Masters in Real Estate at the University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economy. To learn more about the course and/or the assignment itself please visit the university website https://www.landecon.cam.ac.uk/
• The site is for sale through GVA, details and brochure can be found here www.hollowayprison.com

By Natalie Bayfield, Chairwoman of Bayfield Training Ltd