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Alexandra Palace - dramatic changes to a listed and historic building

The formal planning application for the changes to Alexandra Palace has been submitted and you can find it on this Haringey Planning link. The documents submitted with the application are really quite nicely named and it is possible to home in on the bits you might be interested in.

Given the long standing commitment from Haringey and the trustees of the Alexandra Palace Charity to apply for UNESCO world heritage status I have looked at the proposed First Floor East Wing plan. This has rooms called Marconi EMI Studio, Gallery and Baird Studio, These are large spaces.

The document Heritage Statement Appendix 2 plans documents the development of these spaces over the years and has lots of detail on the shape and uses of the rooms.

It seems the proposal is to remove these historic studios altogether, and to replace them with large modern open spaces, and lavatories. This will entirely destroy any chance of achieving UNESCO World Heritage status, and remove the opportunity to explore the studios, dressing rooms and make up areas used for very many early BBC broadcasts. Replacing these with an exciting audio visual display, and a few documents does not seem a fair exchange.

I believe that Haringey should stick to its commitment to pursue the Heritage listing and reject thos portion of the proposals.

This historic layout

will be replaced with this bland modern space

You can submit your comments to Haringey on this link

My comments were

The proposal to replace the historic BBC studios with a bland and modern replacement shpuld not be allowed. It runs counter to the principles of conservation, it breaches the council's own undertaking to apply for UNESCO world heritage status, and destroys a large part of the borough's historic legacy 

Tags: alexandra palace, bbc, heritage, hlf, planning, unesco

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Bill Pope@Underbundle

TV's culturally important worldwide. Future generations wouldn't thank us for dismantling it's birthplace @OpinionN8opn8.co.uk/1xEoQDb


ADRIAN, I've attached some of the most important documents that form part of the scores of files associated with the current Planning Application.

The Save Ally Pally public campaign achieved victory in the High Court in 2007 when the Council tried to sell our charity's asset to a slum landlord.

The amendments needed now could easily save time and money. IMO, about 90% of the proposals relating to the east wing of Ally Pally are fine. Indeed, most of the plans for the studios are fine.

SAP has been revived and, although as I understand it, there's no desire to slow, much less halt, the HLF process, some minor amendments in the proposals are sorely needed – in the overall scheme, they're quite minor.

I'm told the working title of the new campaign is SOS (Save Our Studios!).

Clive Carter
Haringey Councillor
One of the 57 Trustees

Hi Adrian,

See photos (may be more than one email!) of the 1936 Studio B, the Loggie Baird studio inside and outside, that the Trust are looking to demolish and 'modernise' with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The historic report of The Alexandra Palace TV Soc (see Clive s post) is a little treasure, with photos and anecdotes from the people who worked there. One of these, is the star of the broadcast wondering off into the large indoor bowling alley behind their dressing rooms, when the live light was on, someone had to run and find them. All broadcast was live I understand. To stop them going missing, they locked the door to the bowling alley. The bowling alley is not part of the HLF bid.

Thank you to APTVS for putting that report together.
Another photo of Studio B, Baird studio.

Do my comments on the planning application get the correct point across?

Thanks Adrian, yes. I would also add that they should not be demolishing the bricked up arches which clearly were extensions to both of the 80 yr old studios. One was used to house the Baird camera technique called The IFT (in the previous post). The current proposal reduces their historical authenticity by messing with the layout. The layout of the studios is the exhibit.

Internally, if you re travelling from Central London for an hour, you d expect to see more of the old studios. Many Central London attractions are free. In my opinion, the success of the Studios determines the success of Ally Pally.

We don't know what we have, not surprising as they ve kept them closed for best part of 30 years!

The APTVS historic report was authored on 17th Nov 2014, way past 'consultation' in 2012.
A photo of the bricked up 3 arches outside Studio B, Loggie Baird studio, that they re looking to demolish as part of the HLF!

With Marconi this was the first place in the world where HD TV was broadcast. Inside the arches was where the IFT (Intermediate Film Technique) large body of a camera sitting on a large machine that scanned film fast.. sat looking into the studio. You technical bods correct me if i ve gone wrong.

High Definition is of course a moveable feast, but in the 1930s, the step up from 180 lines to 405 lines was a huge stride forward. John Logie Baird's IFT system indeed scanned film fast – about 58 seconds after the film had been exposed in a regular movie camera, the film was:

  1. Developed
  2. Stopped
  3. Fixed

While passing through, top to bottom, in an hour-glass like vessel, the film was scanned while still underwater!

It can be done but it's neither ideal nor safe to compress film processing into such a short time. The chemicals used were dangerous. There was a risk of explosion, in addition to the other risks that the cameraman stood.

That cameraman stood behind camera and the IFT equipment.

He stood on the balcony in the IFT booth that was built onto the balcony.

This is the booth that Palace management now wish to destroy, irrevocably, in the name of the external symmetry of the facade. Does this balcony really need to be more than 200 feet long?

It sounds extraordinary that the planning application should attempt to destroy that booth! Are you sure that is what they intend to do? Do you have any photos to show how it looks now?


Expressions of the John Logie Baird period, survive.

This period was short, but historically, very important. These expressions take the form of – admittedly ugly – two or three bricked up arches on the balcony and the side walls that, taken together, enclose a 'room' on the balcony.

That room is known as the booth and it housed Baird's Intermediate Film Technique (IFT).

If the room or booth or alcove is retained, then also retained is the possibility of a life-size model of the IFT apparatus together with a real Vinten movie camera on top.

Moreover, the (in)side of the room that protrudes just four feet into Studio B could also be re-built. Indeed some of the current plans call for a framework of the "reverse bay window", but they are currently half-baked and half-hearted.

Removing the bricks from the arches and the side walls would destroy that booth.

It has not been made at all clear that this would be lost, let alone stated explicitly.

What is clear is that there's a choice and not one dictated by financial considerations: in fact, it may cost less or no more, to conserve and preserve a little more than shown on the Planning Application.


Thanks. Now I get it – the booth (or room) no longer exists (hence no photos), but it used to be on the balcony in the space between the studio and the now bricked-up arches. The booth (or room) must have been destroyed some long time ago and presumably nothing remains except the space on the balcony where it once was. I misunderstood you to claim that the current plans are to destroy the booth, which seems not to be the case. You say that you want “expressions of the John Logie Baird period” – does this mean that you want reconstructions of the booth and other structures? If so, surely this would go beyond the principles of conservation.

I think Clive is saying that physical survivals of an important and unique piece of history exist.

You may know that the current Government guidance on conservation (the NPPF) states:

"Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision."


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