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How do the Haringey criteria for selling the Town Hall measure up?

One of the things the public has been promised in respect of the sale of Hornsey Town Hall was that any bid which did not clear the "community use" hurdle would be eliminated, and indeed question 13 of the Evaluation Questions in the Tender Instructions does not have a percentage allocated  but is labelled "Pass/fail". So this promise has been kept.

BUT

The question reads:

Please provide a statement which demonstrates how the proposal has responded to the council's minimum Community Use/Access requirements.

The accompanying notes set out what this means:

Your proposal should demonstrate how you have met the council's minimum requirement in this regard, which is:

  •  Improvements should be made to the Town Hall Square and open public access and use secured; and
  •  An open front door policy should be adopted to ensure public interaction with the building.

The council reserves the right to exclude a tender in its entirety where its minimum requirements in this regard have not been met.
The relevant definitions of community use and access are as follows

  •  Community access: publicly accessible space free at point of entry; and 
  •  Community use: space made available at non-commercial rates for given periods to members of the public to use.

Answers to be provided on both sides of a sheet of A4.

So the hurdle is erected, and its dimensions set out. But is it big enough?

Community access: publicly accessible space free at point of entry;  -  as is , for example, the foyer of the Virgin Active gym, thereby granting us access to what was once the Opera House; as is the whole of Waitrose, granting us access to our what was once Woolworth's; as is the Coronet on Holloway Road, now an enormous and almost completely soulless Wetherspoon's, granting us access to what was once an art deco cinema; as will be Fulham Town Hall, also a grade II* listed building, soon to be a McLaren's showroom. These examples are not perhaps what we would be hoping for, but all of which fall within the definition. Perhaps the Tate Modern is a more luminous example, where the public can gain access to what is sometimes awe-inspiring art in a renovated post-war power station; or Jackson's Lane which has survived for 40 years, admittedly much of it under grant from from various bodies, but which now provides a cultural hub bringing much more money to the area than is granted to it.

Community use: space made available at non-commercial rates for given periods to members of the public to use. However carefully one drafts a document, ambiguities will creep in. Presumably this means at little or no cost, rather than a non-commercial £1m per hour. But the given periods are not specified, would 5 - 7 a.m. on New Year's Day do the trick? Would once a year be enough to clear the hurdle? Would a private study carrel on the top floor, be considered a sufficient space, or can we expect the council chamber? What is in the secret 'legal agreement' between the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust and Haringey which might take our hurdle from being a flimsy three inch piece of expanded polystyrene held up with blue tack, and turn it into Becher's Brook?

We were also promised that the points allotted to community use and access would constitute 30% of the total. They don't, they just absolutely do not. The evaluation criteria are split into two parts - Financial and Quality. The Financial section does have 30% of the marks allocated. The Quality assessment has the remaining 70% and of this the Community Use and Access gets 30%, i.e. 21% of the total. This is definitely a downgrade on the promises I remember hearing.

BUT, the accompanying notes to question 14 in the assessment do hold out a bit more hope that there will be pressure on the developers to do something meaningful. There is reference to " a positive contribution to the local economy" and "Community use / access is enabled to some Heritage spaces as (e.g. Foyer, Committee Rooms, Assembly Hall, Council Chamber, Mayor's Parlour)" which, if enforced , would raise the barrier somewhat.

My worry about this section is twofold. One the repetition of the absolute minimum standards, and two, the repeated use of the word 'enhanced'. What is it they are enhancing - a basic offer which gets them over the initial hurdle, which night or might not be 'enhanced' into something meaningful, which might or might not get delivered.

Tags: hornsey town hall, ojeu

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