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I reproduce in full a circular produced by the Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society. For my taste it's a little understated, and lacking both in hyperbole and vitriol, but the HTHAS is a group of clever, thoughtful people, who have followed and infiltrated the bidding process, and know a lot more than they let on. They are probably keeping their powder dry. 
Hornsey Town Hall - a future not so bright

You heard the rumours, you saw the press release (and our response) and the sale of Hornsey Town Hall moved a lot closer. It seems Crouch End may soon be luxuriating in a boutique hotel. Or not.

HTHAS welcome the long awaited restoration, but in a long history of perplexing council decision making, this one is right up there.

Haringey are planning to dispose of the Town Hall and Square to property developers Coplan Estates and Hong Kong based Far East Consortium, registered in the Cayman Islands, and subsidiary Dorsett Hotels.

The project, we're told, is a 55 room hotel based in the East and West wings of the building – currently occupied by numerous small local businesses, who will be making other plans. The back lot becomes a residential development, with plans for the Square unknown. The “arts centre” shrinks to the Assembly Hall.

The initial decision to agree the bidder will be made at Cabinet on October 18th. Although as they've already sent out the press release, you'd be excused if you assumed it'll be rubber stamped.

A Bidder

Do we see the positive in all this? Well, we like hotels too – but in Crouch End? Have these people never heard of airbnb?

FEC, a highly leveraged company, boast on their website of a business model based on short term investments, quickly disposing of completed projects.

Their Dorsett subsidiary run 300 room complexes – so how does a small hotel in Crouch End fit into a portfolio of luxury hotels pursuing the 'Chinese Wallet'? Search us. Even Haringey's own market testing in 2014 failed to find justification for such a venture – although one clue may be the admission that the company see this merely as a stepping stone for a larger hotel at Alexandra Palace.

Have the council adequately assessed these risks? Unfortunately we're told only the property consultants GVA were retained to do this work. Which is a little embarrassing as GVA's own website confirms their close and fruitful partnership with the other developer in the bid, Coplan Estates. Which steers perilously close to a conflict of interest.

A Solution?

It seems Haringey are blissfully unaware of the concerns surrounding overseas property speculation in London. Given that the hotel could change hands before a paying guest sets foot in the place, how does that square with the council's aim to “secure a long term future for Hornsey Town Hall”? If a hotel fails, what then?

And as we're asking questions – if the council are only now starting the “detailed discussion about the community space and arts provision” what exactly did they base their decision on? The bidders were supposed to have worked that out already.

Perhaps the last word should be for the future of the 74 businesses and 130 people that are based in the Town Hall. These are the kind of local businesses and creative enterprise that are supposedly supported through both Haringey's own policies – and that of the London Plan and Mayor Sadiq Khan. Alas the council's choice seems a missed opportunity to find a project of real value to the local economy.

So, are we too cynical and dismissive? – Or are you still picking up your jaw off the floor? Why don't you let the council know.

Crouch End councillors – jason.arthur@haringey.gov.uk  natan.doron@haringey.gov.uk  sarah.elliott@haringey.gov.uk
Leader of the council – claire.kober@haringey.gov.uk
Cabinet member for Housing Regeneration & Planning – alan.strickland@haringey.gov.uk

  • Feel free to demand the secrecy ends and full details are released
  • Request to see the justification for choosing FEC and Coplan
  • Demand to see the community use and access offers of the final bidders
  • Express your concern about the long term future of the Town Hall
  • Insist that the council supports workspace for local businesses
We'll see how things develop

Tags: dorsett, far east consortium, hornsey town hall, ojeu, tax haven

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Replies to This Discussion

So why, given that Haringey have a full range of policies designed to support small local businesses, cultural and creative enterprise and affordable housing, did they go for a hotel?

Why did they choose a bidder that is more likely to be there for 125 days rather than 125 years? Why did they take the risk in bollocksing the whole thing up again?

Why did they insist on avoiding a new planning application, even though that put stupid constraints on the ideas of developers and architects?

The cash.

Yep. despite all the promises on community criteria and the arts, they went for the money. A few measly million they can piss up the wall on consultants.

And if people don't like it, tough. And if the hotel lasts for 5 minutes and takes down the assembly hall and everything else with it, tough. Community my arse, Haringey are outta here. Gone. It's only Crouch End, they can f*** off the rich b*****ds.


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