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Hornsey Town Hall - a note from Cllr Alan Strickland

I have just received the following from Cllr Strickland. For ease of reading I have run it through opitcal character recognition. The original pdf is attached

Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing Councillor Alan Strickland _

Date: 25 June 2015

Direct O20 8489 2964

dial:

Email: Alan.StrickIand@haringey.gov.uk

 

Dear Resident,

Thank you for contacting us about the future of Hornsey Town Hall. Now that the

oounciI’s Cabinet has agreed a way forward in finding a future for the building, I

thought it would be helpful if I set out the steps we’ll be taking and to clarify some

of the issues raised.

 

The first thing to say is that our top priority is to preserve this fantastic building and

its unique architectural features for use by future generations. We have been

working hard with ward councillors from both parties. the Hornsey Town Hall

Creative Trust and independent advisors to plan a secure future for the building and

have engaged residents in this work through a series of meetings.

 

The decision taken by the CounciI’s Cabinet

 

The Cabinet agreed to start a procurement process for the Town Hall which means

that any organisation will have the opportunity to bid to run the Town Hall and

develop the adjacent land on a long leasehold basis. Bids may come from one

organisation, or a partnership of different organisations.

 

The alternative would be for the council to sell the building on the open market,

however a procurement process has been chosen as this is the best mechanism for

securing community use for parts of the building and gives the council control over

who the operator of the building will be.

 

Bids will be assessed against scoring criteria, to ensure a fair and objective

judgement of the options. The procurement process is a significant piece of work,

which will be conducted with independent professional advice and is expected to

take 12-18 months.

 

Public engagement

 

In advance of the recent Cabinet decision, there was clear public engagement

involving hundreds of local people. A number of months before the paper went to

Cabinet, the council held a public meeting at Hornsey Town Hall, which was

attended by more than 320 residents. In addition, we held two workshops for

community organisations and local businesses.

 

Independent of the counciI’s engagement events, the Hornsey Town Hall Creative

Trust ran its own consultation exercise with residents and other interested parties to

find out priorities for community use of the building. This consultation engaged

around 300 residents through surveys and workshops. The Trust’s consultation

report was taken to the Cabinet as part of the papers.

 

 

How we will secure community use and access

 

The council and the community share a strong desire to see the building offer some

community access and use in the future as part of any new scheme.

 

To ensure this happens, the council has set out a double requirement in the bidding

process. Firstly, no bid will be accepted unless an organisation commits to

providing a level of community use and access. Secondly, of the bids that are

accepted for full consideration, the community use element will carry one of the

highest weightings in the scoring. This means that when the more detailed

assessment of the proposals takes place, plans for community use and access will

be tightly scrutinised and will carry real weight. To ensure that this issue is

considered properly, I have agreed that representatives of the Hornsey Town Hall

Creative Trust will be involved in assessing and scoring the community use

proposals from bidders.

 

It is important to say that while it is envisaged that the Town Hall Square would be

passed to a new operator to manage day-to-day as part of this process, it is

protected in the bidding process for community use — there are no plans to

‘develop’ the square as some have claimed! The use of the square by community

groups would not change.

 

Interim use of the Town Hall

 

The Town Hall has long been closed, so to enable community access in the interim,

the council asked ANA Arts Projects Ltd to run arts activities from the building.

ANA are currently running the Hornsey Town Hall Arts centre on a short term basis,

including a successful programme of events, details of which are available at

http://www.hthartscentre.co.uk/ and we are delighted to see the building back in

use. Unfortunately the current activities in the Town Hall do not cover the very high

running costs of the building and are not able to cover the costs of the extensive

refurbishment needed for the building, so there is still a need for a longer term

solution in order to make the Town Hall financially and operationally sustainable.

 

The need for financial sustainability

 

Our top priority is to restore the Town Hall and preserve it for future use for

generations to come. However, this is very challenging as the Town Hall is an

exceptional Grade II* listed building and is therefore very expensive both to

renovate and to maintain day-to-day. To give a sense of the financial challenge, the

cost of renovating the building is estimated to be around £10m just to bring it back

to a basic occupancy standard, and annual running costs exceed £350,000 when

the building is only part occupied.

 

The only way to achieve security for the Town Hall is to find a plan that offers a long

term viable business plan for operating the building and makes the building pay for

itself. With ongoing deep cuts to the CounciI’s budget by central government, the

Council cannot afford to keep subsidising the building.

 

Further information

 

If there is further information that you would like on the Town Hall project, please

have a look at the dedicated webpage at www.haringey.gov.uk/hth which contains

fuller information and a range of frequently asked Questions.

 

Thank you again for getting in touch and I hope that this letter provides some useful

further explanation of the recent decision and some reassurance on the next steps.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Councillor Alan Strickland

Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing

 

Tags: disposal, hornsey town hall

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And let's hope we will be able to tell the difference between the procurement process and 'selling it on the open market' when the winning bid is announced.

Personally, I'm slightly less than reassured reading the list of assertions our councillor makes:

The 'public engagement' was not a consultation, it was a declaration of intent by Haringey without any opportunity whatsoever for the public voice to be heard. To say that this was 'in advance of the.. decision" is absolutely misleading.

But the unconvincing setting out of the process continues.

"No bid will be accepted unless [it] provides a level of community access", apparently, that is to say not a good level, a high level, a significant level - but something, anything. Indeed, the community access will be "one of the highest weighted scorings in the assessment", but not, we therefore assume, a deal breaker. If all the bids score low on access, there'll still be a winner then?

But the highest ranking on today's litany of specious argument, is the weak "..the Town Hall Square would be passed to a new operator to manage day-to-day...". Be honest, it's for sale! It's not, 'oh it won't matter really' - the square, Crouch End's central green, will become privately owned.

And what of the apparently insurmountable cliff face of the £350,000 running costs? Well, we only have the council's figures - and I'm sure they're accurate - but it is worth bearing in mind that the last time a community group costed the running of an arts-type operation in the Town Hall they estimated revenue at £980,000 pa (inflation adjusted). So perhaps, just perhaps, the long term viable business plan could still prove to be one the whole of Crouch End, Haringey and London could be proud of?

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