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Hasty Disposal of Hornsey Town Hall and Square must be delayed for mature consideration

Many hundreds of us have been to the Crouch End Festival this year (which is , I think, its fourth year). The experience has been heightened by having the Town Hall open. Taken together the square and the Town Hall make a superb space for this event. I jotted down a brief note of my experience of the Crouch End Festival day as part of a stall holder group.

Unfortunately there seems to be a very considerable rush by Haringey to push through a cabinet decision which could utterly destroy the opportunity for this ever to happen again. This decision is an agenda item on the cabinet meeting of Tuesday 16th June, the briefing paper is here and the HTHCT consultation report is here. There is a note here on the proposed sale of Hornsey Town Hall and the Square in order to generate a capital receipt.
If you agree with my arguments (some of them are set out below) that this disposal is a bad thing to do in the context of the life that is currently being breathed back into the Town Hall, then please get in touch with the powers that be to let them know that this is what you think.
My suggested list of contacts would include:
Catherine West MP - contact@catherinewest.org.uk who has indicated some sympathy with these arguments
Crouch End Councillors
Jason Arthur - jason.arthur@haringey.gov.uk 07812 677736 who should be holding a surgery in the library on Sat 13th between 10 and 11 - pop in and see him - he is a cabinet member
Natan Doron - natan.doron@haringey.gov.uk - 07815 700588
Sarah Elliott - sarah.elliott@haringey.gov.uk - 07812 677730
Officers of the Council
Lyn Garner - lyn.garner@haringey.gov.uk 020 8489 2909 - the Director of Regeneration whose name appears as the author of the briefing paper
Jon McGrath jon.mcgrath@haringey.gov.uk Assistant Director for Corporate Property and Major Projects who probably actually wrote the report
The Lead member responsible
Alan Strickland alan.strickland@haringey.gov.uk 07854 481050 - The Lead Member pushing for this disposal - He should be in Wood Green library on Saturday 13th bewtween 10:30 and 11:30
1) This paper has been prepared on the basis of considerations which may have been true in 2013 and 2014 when the Mountview project was in progress. 2015 however has seen a seismic shift in the operation of the building. In the cabinet briefing in paragraph it is said " 8.1 Although current use of the town hall building is low, "  This is absolutely not true. 
  • I was there last Saturday 6th June - the place was absolutely packed - people were taking selfies in the Mayor's seat, and the assembly hall housed a thriving market. The square was packed with spectators and customers for the brass and steel bands, the numerous choirs, the hog roast and the WI cake stall, to list just a few of the attractions. This is not an exceptional occasion - this level of activity will be repeated on 7th June and again on 13th and 14th, and again every year as long as the Crouch End Festival survives. The festival is still in its infancy, it will be many years before it falls into senile decay.
  • Every day some 50 odd small businesses use paid for rental spaces inside the building. This is not low usage. This is a thriving business park.
  • Every week events take place which the public pays admission for.
  • Every week meetings take place of local community groups which the current tenants allow pro bono.
  • All this without any more than the minimum of refurbishment, achievable mainly by the very hard work of the current tenants.
  • Perhaps the "usage is low" comment is based only on the TV and film hire, which may not be frequent but is high profile, prestigious and financially rewarding.
2) The emphasis in the paper has very much shifted from the stated position prior to the Mountview undertaking (one of benign and tender care for a cherished landmark) to an out and out attempt to generate capital receipts. Yet even this is contradictory - one the one hand (para 6.1) "HTH is a valuable surplus asset which is capable of generating a significant capital receipt for the Council" while at the same time (para 11.2) it cannot even wipe its own nose "11.2 Any capital receipt from the residential development of the site is not expected to cover the full refurbishment works . . " Is this really a well thought through proposal.
 
3) Much play is made of the continued insistence for community use of the building. Yet, in an era of transparency and accountability exactly how this is to be achieved is hidden from us in the exempt Appendix C Part B of the report. Surely this section should be open for public scrutiny prior to going to tender
 
4) The briefing paper admits that a different approach (other than wholesale disposal) can be considered in that "para 5.7 e) The Council must achieve best consideration for its asset and is happy to consider both revenue and capital payment structures in order to facilitate a suitable solution in light of its broader objectives"  . Given that the "broader objectives" are currently being achieved to the very great satisfaction of a very large proportion of the Hall's admirers, a continuation of this approach should at least be considered. It is possible that the revenues to be achieved by in this way will not only provide a profit for the operators, but also contribute to refurbishment and to discharge Haringey from further obligations. This approach would enable the building to be kept open in large part, as restoration is carried out, and further sources of funding are put in place.

Tags: hornsey town hall

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Emails sent to all those listed as advised. Lyn Garner conveniently out of office until 25th June!

I have had an email from Jon McGrath - it is labelled "confidential, may be subject to legal privilege" but I'll take the chance - this is what he says - let him know what you think.

Dear Residents,

 

Many thanks for your recent enquiry regarding the Town Hall

 

The report being taken to Cabinet on Tuesday is to enable a long term, sustainable future to be secured for the Hornsey Town Hall site.  We fully support and encourage the current uses in the building and hope to be able to keep the building in operation until a preferred Developer has been selected for the project.  The procurement process is expected to take a minimum of 12-16 months and therefore it would be short-sighted of us to delay the Cabinet decision and not seek to secure a sustainable future use for the building at the earliest opportunity.

 

Please note the following regarding the current uses taking place in Hornsey Town Hall:

 

-          They do not cover the running costs of the building and are therefore not sustainable

-          They do not cover any costs towards repairing and preventing the increasing deterioration of the building

-          They do not fund the extensive refurbishment required to safeguard the building and meet heritage requirements

 

The Cabinet report explains that we are setting some key objectives for the project, which we will be taking out to the open market later this year.  We will not be specifying a particular use nor precluding any uses, therefore there is every opportunity for the type of activity that is currently taking place to be a part of the future use of the building should a suitable proposal come back from the market.  

 

Please see the council’s website and dedicated Hornsey Town Hall pages for all further project updates: www.haringey.gov.uk/hth

 

 

Kind Regards,

 

 

Jon McGrath FCIOB

Assistant Director Property and Capital Projects

Planning, Regeneration and Development

Haringey Council

6th Floor, Alexandra House, 10 Station Road, Wood Green, London N22 7TR

 

tel 020 8489 1818

mob 07973 244161

jon.mcgrath@haringey.gov.uk

Reply to Jon McGrath

Jon

Please can you let us have the exact figures for the present income and expenditure. As stated here you are merely making assertions. I would like to see the underlying data.
Should this imbalance of expenditure not have formed part of the cabinet briefing paper.
Thanks
Adrian

Message from Catherine West

'

Catherine has asked me to let you know that she is having a meeting at Hornsey Town Hall tomorrow at 4pm to discuss this and she hopes you will be able to join her.  They will be meeting in the foyer at 4pm.'

I don't think anything about the town hall sale can be considered hasty.

While it's been great to use the town hall more what is going on is clearly temporary and I agree with the council that it's not sustainable in the long term.

The building is protected from improper development by its listed status. The council has done its best to put community use at the heart of the bids for the development.

If ANA think they can make a go of it then they're welcome to put in a bid.

At a time when there is so much pressure on council services I support their desire to get some money in and reduce their liabilities.

If you look at all the other things on the agenda for the council meeting that is discussing the town hall (school repairs, mental health, adult social care) it shows the council has more serious and important things to be dealing with.

Why don't we just let them get on with it instead of trying to second guess them and initiating another campaign of letter writing and protest that will simply delay things?

I couldn't find a meeting!

This is a really great piece and is there anyway you could do a pro-forma email that people could simply adapt? I had planned to offer mind but it is too fiery!

Something like this, with the 4 numbered points from above as the appended arguments:
Councillor Strickland
There seems to be a quite unnecessary  rush by Haringey to push through a cabinet decision which runs counter to what I can see happening at the Town Hall. This decision is an agenda item on the cabinet meeting of Tuesday 16th June, the briefing paper is here and the HTHCT consultation report is here.
Please postpone this decision so that more consideration can be given to alternative proposals
I set out my reasons for doing so below.
Many Thanks
Adrian

Looks good! Thank you!

in an era of transparency and accountability exactly how this is to be achieved is hidden from us in the exempt Appendix C Part B of the report. Surely this section should be open for public scrutiny prior to going to tender

Just to let you know, an exempt part of a report is only exempt from the duty to publish under the Local Government Act. It's not necessarily exempt from the duty to publish under the Freedom of Information Act, should someone want to put in a request. Any exemptions applied following an FOI request would have to be thoroughly justified by the council, and would still be subject to a review by the Information Commissioner should LBH continue to refuse to publish.

Good information, Jon. I think it may come to that.

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