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Slick but sickly - and too late - Hornsey Town Hall History Lesson

At last night's (Monday 15th April) well attended meeting  of the Crouch End, Hornsey and Stroud Green Area Forum in what for me is still the 'new' assembly hall of Coleridge (this room did not exist when my children went to the school) the group of people responsible for running the Mountview/Hornsey Town Hall project gave a speedy and slick presentation.

The presentation team was, for the council John Mcgrath and two other council officers (apologies I wasn't writing fast enough to get the names), for Mountview Sue Robertson the principal, and for the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust (HTHCT), Liz Sich

There was a series of slides being projected on a screen at the far end of room, the originals of which we're promised we will have a link to, and the microphones whizzed up and down the line like nobody's business. Really quite well done.

Unfortunately, the content did not match up to the presentation. 

The first very obvious point to note is that it is now more than a year since the last update of this sort, which took place at the Area Forum of 17th January 2012. The notes I made at that meeting contained the news that:

4) the plan is to move in to the Town hall in the 2014/15 academic ... (sorry I did not make a note of the revised plan issued last night)

So in what is supposed to be a two and half year project no update has been forthcoming for over a year. We, the public, the owners of this building, the providers of all public funding, must be kept better informed. 

Last night's meeting contained the 'news' that Mountview has been granted £482,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding, news which was announced on the Mountview website on 31st May 2012, i.e. hardly news.

HTHCT announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Haringey Council. The printed MoU handed out at the meeting and on the HTHCT website is dated April 2011!

Sue Robertson included in her presentation that the project is "unique" - I very hope that this is merely a dramatic affectation - I'd very much like it to be a project just like many others, which starts, progresses and finishes, and, perhaps even more important, produces regular and frequent progress reports made available to the public.

Much play was made during the presentation of "Gateway Reviews". These were vaguely defined as 'very formal'. The top hit on Google for 'Gateway review' is on the National Archives website headed "Some content may no longer reflect Government policy". The words 'Gateway Review' are generally prefixed 'OGC' an abbreviation for the Office of Government Commerce which has been disbanded. So far so bad. Apparently the process was widely used in PFI procurement, PFI now being a notorious and cripplingly expensive bugbear for the NHS. 

There is also a reference to 'independent peer review', which will be a toughie to organise for 'unique' project.

There was also a mention of Deloitte's being involved somewhere. Again scant comfort to make a call to such authority. Search Google for "deloitte audit failure" and you get 872,000 results.

So, a well managed presentation but containing far too many anomalies to be reassuring and delivered far, far, far too late to generate a warm feeling of community reassurance.

Tags: hall, hornsey, hornsey town hall, mountview, town

Views: 299

Replies to This Discussion

Adrian thanks for your post. Informative, even though I attended also.

The thing that's always bothered me about the proposal is the method of funding. This involves flooging off the land at the back for building. I learnt this would make a "contribution" – I think was the word used – to the project, far less than a guarantee of success.

But surely this open space ought to be retained for public use? According to the council's own map, this area is the centre of a zone of maximum open space deficiency (i.e. more than 800m from a park or other open space. Would this area not make a lovely park: and all the better as a foil for a Grade II STAR listed building, the aspect that seems to be little regarded. What would the original architect of this masterpiece think of flats going up right alongside?

Do you remember the figure for total units and affordable units?

Although I question any other construction so close to such an important building, even on the council's own terms, its a failure as so few flats would be affordable.

Thank you, Clive.

Re-reading what I have written it actually seems quite optimistic, plus I've learned more since the meeting.

My notes from January last year record a 2014/15 date for Mountview to move in. I think the Mountview page has been retrospectively updated to say 2016/17. Two year's slippage in one year is not good progress! Going back to cover your tracks is unwise.

HTHCT minutes for January 2012 contain the comment "We are also anxious about progress"

As for flogging the land round about - I think this arises from the fact that this is not a modern building and it is listed - it will be difficult and expensive to refurbish and maintain, and then difficult to let, especially with the requirement that we the public be allowed access. HTHCT and LBH have irrevocably taken the decision to cover costs via the associated sale. Every other proposal has been rejected.

I also understand that some of the proceeds of the sale will be used to cover LBH expenses, i.e. not all of the proceeds will go to refurbishment. LBH costs include the drawing up of detailed architects plans to get detailed planning permission for the site. There was never any prospect that a developer would build what Haringey had designed, and indeed this detailed permission, which LBH granted to itself, will expire before a trench is dug. Money down a non-existent drain, soon, probably, to be followed by more as a revised set of plans are drawn up for renewal of the permission??

And, my goodness, don't Deloitte's know how to draw up an invoice!

Your park idea certainly accords with my own views, and perhaps in times of plenty might have been possible. I sketched out the idea for something on a lesser scale around the fountain beside the library, or perhaps in the Town Hall Square using funds from The Pocket Parks Programme. Perhaps as well as having ideas I should sometimes actually do something.

The planning application was HGY/2010/0501 or possibly HGY/2010/0500 and the summary reads as below, but makes no mention of affordable, which was one of the points raised at the Area Forum on Monday.

Refurbishment and conversion of the Town Hall Building comprising alterations, extension and change of use from B1 (Business) and Sui Generis to a mixed use scheme incorporating: D1 (Non-Residential Institutions), A3 & A4 uses (Restaurants, Cafes and drinking establishment), D2 (Assembly and Leisure) and retaining existing B1 and Sui Generis (Theatre and performance venue) use. Alterations, extensions and change of use of Link Block and East Wing from B1 (office) to C3 dwellinghouses. Extension, alteration, refurbishment and change of use of the Broadway Annexe East Part from B1 office to A1 retail and B1 office (West part to be C3 residential). New residential development comprising 123 No. units in total (35 x 1 bed flats, 61 x 2 bed flats, 20 x 3 bed flats, 3 x 4 bed flats and 4 x 4 bed houses) and associated car parking at basement level, including residential accommodation in the existing Town hall (East Wing and Link Building), the Broadway Annexe (West Part) and Mews. Erection of sub-stations. Alterations and landscape improvements including to the Town Hall Square, and use of the square for both public events and markets / small festival uses.

The temporising planning application to preserve those granted in 2010 has now been submitted

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