Hornsey Town Hall

Just a note about the Hornsey Town Hall Advisory Panel meeting on Wednesday 6th October for information.

There was a presentation from a ‘developer’ – but a developer with a difference. She had a heart and developed in partnership with the community and the needs of that community – whilst still making a living.

This was Sylvie Pierce from a company called Capital Providence. Sylvie told us about her work, specialising in the development of heritage buildings. Shoreditch New Deal for Communities Trust had come to her and asked her to look at buildings in the area. She’d identified a Grade II listed building she felt she could develop well.

The similarity with Hornsey Town Hall was that in order to make the development work, 20% of the site had been allocated for residential development. This provided the funding for making the best of the rest of the site – including both a community space and a restaurant called the Hoxton Apprentice involving Pru Leith (a bit like Jamie Oliver and his training restaurant). The restaurant profit goes to running the whole scheme. She put two super-duper apartments on the top to bring in some loot – and Bob’s your uncle.

I know I have truncated the story – but the picture painted was of a different approach to development from the usual approach of developers. It was one where the developer worked with a trust and with brilliant architects. They delivered a great project and produced something which generated the money to pay for the scheme.

Now, there’s been some questions about Haringey Council’s attitude towards the town hall. At the meeting, Judy Bax (the Labour councillor who chairs the advisory group) said Haringey’s position is “no profit, no loss” – they won’t put money into developing the site, but neither are they going to insist on making money out of the site either. Many people have campaigned against any plans to just sell-off the Town Hall, so that was good news to hear.

We then had a look at the proposed planning brief for the site. It was only tabled at the meeting and is quite long and complex relating to Haringey’s planning policies etc. It covers what sort of developments on the site would be allowed. It’s really just a framework outlining what sort of things can be done on the site.

This will be presented at the next Crouch End / Stroud Green Area Assembly. It is very, very general – and no one should get the idea that this is in any way the detail of what would be on the site.

The formal consultation on the planning brief runs from 16th October until 15th November. It will be exhibited at the library and the town hall and Haringey Council will be writing to residents most affected. The council are still discussing how far and how wide the consultation in terms of individual letters to residents will be.

It will also be more fully presented at the next Advisory Panel. It will be available on the council website and there will be adverts in the press notifying of all of this.

There was then a presentation by one group with a suggested way forward for the period when Haringey Council moves out and before the new development is ready.

In brief, there was a proposal for an interim management committee to move into the site and let what space could be let for commercial rents (offices, rehearsal rooms, meeting rooms etc) and have some artistic enterprises using some of the space so that there was no down time or loss of earnings during the 3-5 years the project might be likely to take.

Everyone thought a swift operation was necessary – but how and who should do this was a matter to be gone into further.

As for long-term arrangements – this was the crux of the matter as far as I could see. The Advisory Panel has to put a report to Haringey Council Executive in the relatively near future. This is the area which will touch on who makes the decisions, how much is developed for community and how much for commercial; whether the council retains control and chooses a developer etc or whether a charitable trust with skilled trustees carries this all forward.

Andrew Travers, who is the Director of Corporate Finance at Haringey, had made it quite clear that the council itself would not support the trust idea.

However, the clear will of earlier meetings had been for a trust and to remove it from the auspices of Haringey Council. Several people said that the trick would be to get the Labour councillors who form the Council Executive (who will make the decision) on board and that they would be scared of a trust because of their experiences with Ally Pally.

They were reminded by a member of the panel that Ally Pally Trustees were actually councillors and it was effectively still run by the council as trustees – and that this was quite different from the bulk of a new trust which would have mostly independent trustees.

This got batted around for a while. I voiced the view that we had to make a clear statement of the vision (which everyone virtually agrees on as an arts/education/community etc space with some commercial parts) and make it very clear that an independent charitable trust is the only way forward. However, there was a need for a changeover period while the long-term development got up and running.

It was also understood that Haringey Council could not simply ‘give’ a £20million asset directly and without safeguards to a trust – however brilliant that trust might be. By the same token if the trust was to have total control in the end – it too needed to have a transfer program, business plan etc. Additionally, during any transitional phase decisions that would have to be made would have to be joint so that both parties had some controls and safeguards. The third way one could even say!

It did seem that there was some forward movement on this as a way forward to move from council to trust control.

The next meeting is in a few weeks time, so I’ll update you on further progress as it happens.