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#A TALE of 2 Town Halls, 2 Regeneration Companies … and 2 rebellions

THERE are prominent parallels in politics between two Local Government administrations: Tunbridge Wells in Kent and the London Borough of Haringey.

Each:

  • have fine Art-deco Town Halls
  • have conservative administrations (although in Haringey, on the tin, it says Labour)
  • attempted to institute dramatic changes to their respective, treasured town halls
  • started—or attempted to start—a 50:50 Joint Venture (JV), Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) for development/regeneration
  • saw significant public concern about their disposal plans for their town halls
  • saw significant public concern about their JV development companies
  • saw serious disagreement and a significant split within their ruling Council Group
  • saw a motion of no-confidence in their Council Leader (TWBC and LBH)
  • saw public expressions of concern about these matters by MPs of the same party as the local administration: either a former MP: or by current MPs

As a result of all this, so far only one of them has seen the ousting of their Council Leader and the Winding Up of their LLP (i.e. the Tunbridge Wells Regeneration Co. –TWRC).

It is interesting to note that, as fine a specimen of Art Deco architecture as Grade-II Tunbridge Well's Town Hall is, it still does not quite compare with Reginald Uren’s exquisite, Grade-II Star-listed, Hornsey art-deco masterpiece.

[Tunbride Wells Town Hall] Compared to the path-breaking schemes of the same period at Hornsey and Poplar, for example, it is, according to Architectural History Practice, ‘a weaker design in an outdated style’ but to municipal dreamers it is impressive, not architecturally perhaps but certainly through the civic ambition it marks.

Hornsey Town Hall, Crouch End: ‘the quintessential English modern public building of the decade’

Even if TW's town hall isn't as good as ours—and their regeneration JV was much smaller—their public rebellion was enough to change their Council Leadership and bring an end to the TWRC. It even led to a police probe.

The disposal of Hornsey Town Hall is not a part of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV).

However, there are parallels with the HDV: in the procurement process; the fire-sale/give-away deal; the disposal to a private operator; the disappearance of the public interest and the absence of a meaningful requirement for Affordable Housing. Also perhaps, the sheer recklessness.

(HTH—including the Grade II* building, the Village Green and large car park all in the heart of Crouch End—was sold at less than the price of many individual houses in the west of the Borough).

The cost of extricating itself from the TWRC, included a payment by Tunbridge Wells Council (i.e. residents) of £250,000 to John Laing. There were other costs to the financial disaster.

Unlike the TWRC, the HDV is far larger.

Unlike any JV anywhere in the country, Progress/New Labour-run Haringey have seen fit to include even our present social housing.

Also unlike Haringey, the TW Conservative administration was open in discussing the failings of their company. It was such a disaster, that after much difficulty, responsible Conservatives went at the Winding Up with determination.

Credit is due to Harringay Ward Councillor Zena Brabazon for being first to spot the Tunbridge Wells-parallel. Some months ago in the Council Chamber, Zena pointed out that the well-known socialist administration (!) of Royal Tunbridge Wells had seen fit to pull-the-plug on their regeneration company.

CDC

Liberal Democrat Councillor
Highgate Ward

Tags: HDV, HTH, Hornsey Town Hall, TWRC, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Tunbridge Wells Regeneration Company, voluntary liquidation

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TUNBRIDGE Wells residents comment in 2010 on the threatened sale of their Grade II Town Hall, on the Tunbridge Wells Regeneration Company and other matters.

PDF attached. 433 pages, but fully searchable:

Attachments:

HERE’s a pdf, from the battle in Tunbridge Wells, where the fate of their town hall was much entwined with their HDV-equivalent, the Tunbridge Wells Regeneration Company. (liquidated in 2012)

In Haringey, there is no direct overlap, only a general push to dispose of public assets in any way that seems possible.

(Tunbridge Wells Town Forum).

I was interested to read of "The Council's five commitments".

We hear such transitory PR phrases frequently; the only thing that counts when councils and property are concerned, are the promises in legally binding agreements, enforceable in a Court of Law.

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