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One of the most noticeable things about the proposals for Hornsey Town Hall (preferred bidder 2015 - 17 phase) is just how little they say. A number of people have been trying to penetrate the shroud of ignorance that surrounds the deal with Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. So far I have submitted four such requests, which you can see on what do they know.
One of them has had an answer -
The reason for asking this is to understand just how our three local Labour Councillors expect this investment to work. Its purpose is to replace the lost studio/workshop/office spaces currently being used inside the Town Hall. There are said to be 74 businesses employing 130 people currently renting space in HTH. Such a concentration of small businesses brings with it a synergy. Perhaps commissions are referred between neighbours, ideas put forward by one strike a chord with another, collaborations are struck up. To split them up, perhaps putting some of them out of business, seems a shame. The much quoted Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust Consultation has 38% of its respondents voting for "business space" (10.55%) or "creative arts uses" (27.68%) both of which preferences would benefit greatly from a continuation of the current use. This use would cease altogether in order to accommodate the proposed hotel (0.37% in the survey).
So, there is a hastily cobbled together scheme to relocate some of these businesses to the Hornsey Library. Hence the FoI request.
The questions and answers were/are:
Please provide information about the £1million that the local Councillors say (September / October 2016) will be invested in Hornsey Library (statement 30th September) to include details of
Q1. where the money will come from and has it been secured within the London Borough of Haringey budget - A1 The money is included in the Council’s approved Capital budgets
Q2. whether that investment is contingent on the preferred bid for HTH being successful - A2 No
Q3. whether there have been substantive or preliminary discussions about the likelihood of achieving the necessary planning and listed building consents for the changes necessary in the library - A3 The scope of works has yet to be determined and will include any necessary condition works. Any design will need to have the appropriate consents which will be sought as part of the design process.
Now, as to the money being in the capital budget - well I'd have to ask again. Perhaps it is, though it does not show up as an explicit item. The budget produced for the LBH website is here , with nowhere near enough detail to tell. The cabinet approved the budget in this report, which again has no specific mention of Hornsey Library, perhaps it is buried in another line item. Note though, that Answer 1 was not 'Yes'.
Answer A2 suggests that the relocation will go ahead anyway, whether or not space remains available in the Town Hall. Maybe it will. I'm not holding my breath. This is the sort of scheme that can easily be sidelined, especially given the answer to question 3 - which is honest enough - to paraphrase, they've got no idea yet, what it would take to make this scheme actually work.
For me, the lesson to be learned is that asking questions is a tricky business, which I could do better.