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In the course of consulting on a planning application as significant as this one on Hornsey Town Hall, the planning department seeks opinions from those on a consultation list and in this case it has turned to Hemant Amin ,Principal Business Growth Officer, Economic Development, Haringey Council, River Park House, 225 High Road, Wood Green, N22 8HQ.
'Hem' recently joined Haringey from Tunbridge Wells, where he was known as Mr Fix-It.
I'm disappointed than that he makes such a pig's ear of his assessment of the Hornsey Town Hall planning application. Hornsey Town Hall has been intensively and successfully used as a creative hub for the past two years. Under the excellent 'meanwhile' management of ANA the creative hub in the Town Hall has grown to 73 companies employing 150 people. Not only creative (e.g. Wolffepack) but also support, design and professional services. Not as Hem states "the former Town Hall has largely been vacant or underused in employment terms for many years."
Hem also states "The proposed development is likely to generate overall more jobs and a wider range of jobs including entry-level job particularly in the hospitality/catering sector." But it just isn't. The hotel he seems to believe will be created has gone, to be replaced by bed sits which will need cleaning occasionally. Any restaurants in the Square will bankrupt lesser establishments on the periphery of Crouch End, leading to no net gain in jobs.
And anyway, Joe Goldberg, a man who collects a Special Responsibility Allowance for Economic Development, Social Inclusion and Sustainability, wrote in Haringey's Economic Growth Strategy :
"We have been seen as a dormitory borough with insufficient focus on local job creation" - turning Hornsey Town Hall into a huge dormitory at the expense of small businesses is not consistent with Joe's strategy.
And elsewhere in the strategy Haringey wants to become a "More Dynamic Borough" , by which they mean, inter alia:
"The profile of Haringey-based jobs changes so that retail and public sector employment are less dominant, and there is a better range of jobs, including a greater proportion of jobs in more highly skilled sectors, such as sustainable technology, digital design and skilled/craft manufacturing"
The tenants currently in Hornsey Town Hall have achieved exactly the desired mix of jobs that Haringey aspires to. Hem really does need to think again. Maybe he should actually visit the Town Hall.
I can't find a Principal Business Growth Officer but this ad for a Principal Economic Growth Officer suggests a remuneration of over £40,000 p.a. for implementing strategy.
Salary up to £42,951.00
"Nice work if you can get it."
The Neighbourhood Forum has written a very polite letter to Hem asking him to resubmit, and copied it to various high ups in the council, both officers and councillors, so I don't think I'm breaking any confidences publishing it here:
I am writing on behalf of Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum in response to the Economic Development team's response to Hornsey Town Hall planning application (HGY/2017/2220).
We ask that you reconsider your response, taking into consideration the current use of HTH, which you seem to be unaware of when you wrote your response.
HTH has been open as Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre since 2015. Since then it has hosted a full programme of classes (dance, drama, yoga etc), shows, film screenings, events, etc. There is a cafe on the ground floor and innovative occasional catering events. The Ply Art Gallery operates here with a full programme of exhibitions. The Crouch End Festival has benefited enormously from the ability to circulate freely from the Town Hall Square into and around the building.
Therefore, we seriously question your assertion: “We understand that the former Town Hall has largely been vacant or underused in employment terms for many years.” It has been neither vacant nor under used for the past two years.
You further assert: “The proposed development is likely to generate overall more jobs and a wider range of jobs including entry-level job particularly in the hospitality/catering sector.” A major use of the building for over 2 years is as a creative business hub, acting as an incubator for small enterprises needing space. Currently over 75 businesses employing 130 people are working out of the offices in the building. The range of businesses is wide, including creative, support, design, professional services, such as architects, jewellery makers, and designers.
The planning application submitted by Crouch End (FEC) Ltd will result in the loss of all these small businesses from Hornsey Town Hall, with no re-provision of office space in the development. There is a small co-working area but this does not meet the needs of small businesses to work out of small, affordable offices. Given the “somewhat limited” nature of the proposed co-working space all the current jobs would be displaced, and this employment lost to Crouch End.
It is also our understanding that the nature of the hotel is to be on the self-catering apart-hotel model, thereby generating very few jobs. Whilst some restaurants are planned the employment these bring will likely be cancelled out by the closure of the less competitive independent restaurants on the periphery of the town centre.
We ask that you take into consideration the existing employment uses of the site and the impact of their loss on the local area and the borough.
We also ask that you press the developer to not get rid of the existing employment space, and provide replacement affordable workspace in the new development in line with Haringey Development Management Policy DM40 Non-designated employment land and floorspace.
In light of these comments, we ask that you withdraw the comments you made on the planning application, and resubmit them taking into account the current uses of the town hall.
CENF would be delighted to show you around the Town Hall to see the current vibrant work space and arts centre so you can re-consider your response to the current application. If you would like us to arrange this, please contact David Winskill (CENF Chair)