Connecting Crouch End and Hornsey with news, views and information
A lot of information relating to Hornsey Town Hall (HTH) has recently been made available.
The HTH Creative Trust (HTHCT) has published this news item. Highlights from this include a 125 year lease under the terms of which Mountview will occupy parts of the building; a reduction from 123 to 78 in the number of dwellings to be built on the site.
Haringey's Cabinet considered this document which is very long, but does contain the detail that the disposal will realise the sum of £1. There is reference to a plan with red, blue and yellow edges which I have yet to find.
HTHCT also released this news item which welcomes the Cabinet's decision and contains some pictures of key players.
Haringey has released this news item which announces the sale of part of the site.
I tried to be determinedly neutral in simply making this information available. It probably looks like a good thing, but there is a lot of information to take in. I am sorry if I have managed to appear to disapprove, I am still trying to assimilate.
Sounds like a great thing - so if I can decode the rather intricate reporting, is Mountview Theatre Academy to be housed in a part of Hornsey Town Hall?
I have now gathered a it more information, not so much from careful reading, but from standing about gossiping.
This does seem to look like a goodish deal.
Crouch End for People maintains its determinedly negative approach. True, there is some detail to be sorted out. It is to be hoped for example that Mountview actually has a flow and a reserve of cash to do what is proposed. Converting the inside of that building with English Heritage breathing down your builder's bum won't be easy or cheap. But Crouch End for People has not maintained its credibility - it was once a force for good, but its web site has not been updated since 2004, and all I have heard from it in that time is complaint.
The Tottenham Journal is much more willing to present the positive spin, and simply quote the principals from Mountview, HTHCT and LBH. Not the most exciting journalism, perhaps.
I didn't know Crouch End for People was still in business. When they were most active they lacked effective leadership. I remember at a meeting about the Town Hall, Judy Bax, who was representing Haringey in some capacity, said, "We can't deal with Crouch End for People." We needed someone who really knew how to do local politics, but never got one. Back then (round about when that website was last updated, I guess), their main demands were (a) parking not flats and (b) a cinema. The second remains a desirable thing. I'm not so sure about the first. I guess Haringey want it off their hands: they don't need another Alexandra Palace.
The local papers are useless at reporting local politics.
The Ham and High is just bluster, predicting a problem which might or might not happen. Crouch End for People are just peddling rehashed objections and the authors have not bothered to complete the "About Us" pages of their website.
The objections raised by Chris Setz deserve closer attention, but even amongst these there is a certain amount of exaggeration and scare mongering.
He asks "Does the Creative Trust merit criticism as it didn't come even close to indicating to the community that HTH was up for grabs with free money if you were an arts charity?" I think it does - when the Trust was set up I, along with hundreds of others, was promised frequent updates on what was happening - as far as I can tell I have had three emails in three years. I think the Trust is also to be criticised for over reaching itself by striving for "a world class model of civic renaissance" when all that was needed was to stop the building falling down and provide something good enough for travellers on the 41, 91, W3, W5 and W7 buses. I think criticism is also due because there has never been a plan B - selling the land for development has always been the only route identified. His (Setz's) approach of piecemeal renovation and using the income to fund the next stage might have been an alternative.
Setz is wrong to jump on the Ham and High bandwagon about denial of public access - the Assembly Hall used to be a theatre in which many local dramatic societies put on performances. The Mountview theatre should also be such a place - it should be a condition of the lease that suitably qualified companies be allowed to hire the hall at realistic rates. My fear is that the lease negotiations will be conducted under the cloak of commercial confidentiality and such details may be missed.
Setz is also wrong to suggest "Nothing in the proposal needs to be legally binding and there are no means of recovery if Mountview goes bankrupt." since obviously a lease is legally binding - it is the terms which are crucial. The heads of agreement which have been drawn up so far have been marked "exempt" in the council papers. Setz has opened up Mountview's books to scrutiny, something else Haringey have tried to "exempt". Obviously the bankruptcy of a tenant leaves very little recourse, whoever that tenant is.
I think that what is needed is a constructive dialogue with HTHCT and LBH. We are, after all, where we are, and need to make something work for the future. I wonder would it be possible to create such a dialogue?
The principal of Mountview has given an interview to the Journal. Having agreed the principles of the lease they are now tying uo some of the details - like funding the refurbishment -
"Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts has revealed it hopes to secure a grant towards the extensive renovation of the Grade II listed building in the centre of Crouch End"
I'm ready to help bring Hornsey Town Hall back into public use. I'd like to see the promise the council made (Town Hall as an arts centre) fuilfilled. Mountview have a place in that, as do all the arts organisations doing good in Haringey. I suggest we lobby the council to have the Town Hall run as a going concern by an arts management company, renting out space to artists and art organsations across the borough, at appropriate fees.
I think Mounview has a big place in the Town Hall - I think they can afford to pay at least £300,000 per year in rent, maybe a lot more. Be good to get a local estate agent's view. I'm annoyed though that they're already (according to the interview they gave) planning to build a classroom outside - it just shows that they already think they own the building and can do whatever they like with it. Every bit of land they use up deprives us. They are themselves developers. If the Council are selling Town Hall land to developers to raise money to refurbish the Mountview Town Hall, why can't Mountview pay more than just £1 and thus reduce the amount of land the Council wants to sell off? A studio classroom has got to be worth at least one flat for a rich person, doesn't it?
Renting to Mountview for 125 years is in fact giving them an asset they can create wealth for themselves from at our expense. They are a private school who's Directors are paid more than the Prime Minister I guess, so it's lining thier pockets with money that could be spent to help other arts organisations grow. In order to maintain charitable status, a school needs to do a certain amount of charitable work in the community. Are they in fact a business doing the minimum to avoid paying tax, or are they a charity benefiting the community? If they're making £5m per year on student fees and throwing in a few bursaries to keep the Charity Commission happy, I'd be gutted. Will they publish a breakdown of how many paying customers earn them the £5m and how much of their profits they use to support the disadvantaged?
Another aspect that has not been given enough illumination is the very provision of arts education. In a time of savage cuts, why is anybody happy that a private organisation is being given preferential status as our schools external provider? Why is it a good thing that Mountview can charge schools to provide educational courses? How big a budget has Haringey Education allocated to spend on Mountview?
Let's return to the real world and get a management company that will act in the interests of the public to run the space at a modest profit. The management company can work with Mountview to rent out the space if they are to be the main tenant. The Assembly Hall could benefit organisations needing performing space such as the Crouch End Choir and the Crouch End Players and maybe Film societies such as Haringey Independent Cinema. I think Crouch End Open Studios should be able to use it free of charge every year as an exhibition space. I wonder if Hornsey Historical Society wants any office space at a reasonable rent? There is enough space available for more than just Mountview.
In other words, I think we should draw up a list of the sort of Arts Centre activities we want (are were promised) and show how we can achieve that for a little less than the costs already allocated. This has been done before, and it didn't change anything, so I think we need to add something extra to make it work. What would have to happen to get this plan to actually happen?
If, for instance, there was cross-party support in the Council, would that do it? I guess not as Labour are in power. What it presumably needs is a majority of the ruling labour councillors to vote for it. So, is the only practical option to win them over? If so, how many and which ones? For instance, if the Leader of the Council liked this new idea, would that do it?
Why thankyou Suzi - really appreciate it.