Hornsey Town Hall Restoration Costs Published

As Crouch End Ward Cllrs we have made our position on the FEC planning application for Hornsey Town Hall very clear: our support is contingent on our concerns being addressed to our satisfaction.  We set this position out in an article for the Ham & High last week.

One of our main concerns was a detailed plan for the arts centre. It is encouraging that since our open letter in August we have now had an announcement on the arts operator.  We now want to hear more on the plan for the arts centre.

Today marks a significant and positive development. FEC have written to us with details of a comprehensive programme of repair that addresses the need to restore Hornsey Town Hall. FEC state that the cost of the restoration and refurbishment work will come to over £30 million. This restoration is critical to the success of this project.

Some progress has clearly been made since our open letter but there is more to do. Most significantly on affordable housing. We think it would be completely unacceptable for the development not to have any affordable housing and will not support the application unless this is addressed. We also want further assurance on the sensitivity of the development and its impact on Crouch End.

FEC have time before the planning committee meeting which will decide the application to assure us and more importantly, the community that this planning application fulfils the vision of a restored and thriving Hornsey Town Hall.

The letter we received from FEC today is printed below. The detailed cost plans can be seen by clicking here.

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Letter from FEC dated 17 October 2017

Dear Cllr Arthur, Cllr Doron and Cllr Elliott,

Re: Planning application for the restoration of Hornsey Town Hall

Further to my letter dated 8 September, I am writing with more detail on the restoration costs for Hornsey Town Hall as well as with an update on the recently appointed arts operator.

We have today published on our project website the headline figures for the restoration and refurbishment of the Grade II* Listed Hornsey Town Hall and Grade II Listed Broadway Annex which makes clear our commitment to this iconic building in the heart of Crouch End.

You will see that the cost for the full restoration of the Town Hall including fit out costs is estimated at £31,540,000. The total cost for the full restoration of the Town Hall and Broadway Annex (including fit out costs) is estimated at over £36 million. I hope that setting out the costs in this way provides assurance to the local community that we’re fully committed to the sensitive restoration of the Town Hall, alongside improving internal layouts, creating better access and generating more usable spaces with a better public offer.

We have broken down the cost into three categories – ‘essential works’, ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘fit out’. These costs are based on preliminary surveys and our current understanding of the scope of work that is required.

On the arts operator, we’re delighted to have appointed a Haringey-based organisation, The Time + Space Co, to realise our vision for a modern day arts centre in Crouch End. Piers Read, the Managing Partner who will lead the operation has years of experience in the creative industries and brings a proven track record of unlocking the potential in buildings like the Town Hall. He’ll work with partners including Jon Gilchrist, former Executive Director of the Bush Theatre in London, who brings a wealth of theatre experience and Musion, the world leading 3D holographic producer who will base their HQ at the Town Hall.

Piers very much shares our vision to connect all communities within Crouch End and the wider borough, to activate the Town Hall at the heart of the community and welcome the public to enjoy the new spaces. He is also in the process of exploring building partnerships with local arts organisations, including ArtHouse Crouch End, who can help supplement our vision to deliver a successful and sustainable arts centre. We will be publicising a “meet the arts operator” event where the community can find out more about the operational uses planned for the future and ask any questions they may have in the coming weeks.

We continue to work tirelessly on this project and believe our proposals are deliverable with a workable, high-quality hotel offer whilst at the same time creating flexible spaces in the Town Hall for the arts operator to adapt to demand.

Finally, we continue working closely with the council through the formal planning application process, including viability discussions, and understand the high importance you place on the inclusion of affordable housing as part of the scheme. By means of an update, we have already agreed a number of points with the council’s independent advisors. The level of affordable housing will be determined following the conclusion of our negotiations, which at present we expect could conclude by early November. We will of course update you further at this point.

Yours sincerely,

John Connolly (Head of UK Development, FEC)

cc Lyn Garner, Strategic Director Regeneration, Planning and Development, Haringey Council

Emma Williamson, Assistant Director of Planning, Haringey Council

Refugee Housing Appeal in Haringey

As a borough, Haringey is taking the lead in London on the refugee crisis. At the moment, Haringey is currently supporting 46 unaccompanied asylum seeking children. These include 3 children from Calais who arrived earlier in the month under the ‘Dubs Amendment’. On 15th November, Haringey’s Cabinet announced a plan to resettle a further 10 Syrian refugee families into the borough.

However, government support for accommodating Syrian refugees is limited to Local Housing Allowance. That’s why the Council is looking for Haringey residents who are able to help out and accept a rate which is likely to be less than they would get from renting their property privately.

If you, or any other Crouch Enders you know, have an empty property and are able and willing to house a Syrian refugee family at Local Housing Allowance rates, please do let the Council know. It has been horrifying to see the unfolding tragedy in Syria, so anything we can do to help would be great. You can email landlords@haringey.gov.uk or call 020 8489 4527.

You can read a bit about the efforts of Haringey and other London councils to welcome refugees and the challenges they face here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/davehillblog/2016/nov/16/haringey-to-welcome-syrian-refugees-as-london-struggles-to-take-its-share 

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Jason, Natan and Sarah are your hardworking local Labour Cllrs.

Since we were elected in 2014 we’ve seen:

  1. Hornsey Town Hall open again with progress made towards finding a sustainable future for the building
  2. £8million invested in Park Road leisure centre including the protection of the much-loved diving board
  3. Over £14,000 invested in community groups in Crouch End to provide services for the disabled, protection of green spaces and to support art and culture including the Crouch End Festival
  4. Over £1million for roads and pavements with 56 roads designated as 20mph and almost 150 new street lights
  5. Waiting times for Homes for Haringey repairs reduced from 23 to 12 days in Crouch End

Find out more by clicking here.

This record was a major reason why former leader of the Haringey Lib Dems Sarah Elliott has joined the Labour Party. This means we now have three Labour Cllrs in Crouch End. You can read Sarah’s statement about joining Labour here.

HTH Update: A response to community concerns

On 30th September we updated Crouch End on the announcement of a preferred bidder to secure the future of Hornsey Town Hall. This is a deal that will see tens of millions of pounds invested in the refurbishment of the Town Hall with the installation of an arts centre & boutique hotel. Community access to the Hall and square will be legally guaranteed in perpetuity. This is a deal that will breathe new life into what is already one of the best areas in London.

There is no doubt that Crouch Enders want to see a viable and sustainable plan for the future of Hornsey Town Hall. But if we’re honest, given what has happened with the Town Hall over the last 15 years, it’s understandable that many people are concerned that this wont be achieved. Since we were elected in 2014 we’ve always believed in fronting up decisions and doing our best to engage local people in what’s going on. That’s why we spent hours out on Crouch End Broadway and online talking to people the weekend after the preferred bidder was announced. And that’s why we’re determined to address some of the concerns that have been raised.

However, in order to answer some of these concerns it’s important to restate the situation we’re in.

Context

The Town Hall was built to house the headquarters of the old borough of Hornsey. This borough no longer exists. This leaves Haringey as a local authority with a beautiful building that is surplus to requirements. Hornsey Town Hall is also a financial liability at a time when the Government has cut the council’s budget by 40%. It costs hundreds of thousands of pounds just to keep it running each year.

The status quo is unsustainable. The Town Hall is in a poor state and on the English Heritage at-risk register. The current Arts Centre is barely generating enough to fully maintain the building, let alone repair and enhance it. Tens of millions of pounds are needed to bring the Town Hall back into a fit condition for longer-term use. Haringey doesn’t have anything near that kind of money with Government cuts stripping hundreds of millions of pounds from our budget.

It would be easy to just sell the building and dispose of the liability. But that would leave Haringey with no control over the future of the building. We want to see the building refurbished, community access preserved and guaranteed for the future and a mix of economic activity that can take Crouch End from great to even greater.

The procurement process was set up to attract bidders who could achieve this. Scoring of the bids took a range of factors into account and community benefit was the biggest single scoring criteria. They couldn’t have won without a good pitch on community access.

The Council has had to follow EU procurement rules that limit the amount of information that can be shared. Although there are those who suggest that these rules are a convenient smokescreen to withhold information, the truth is simply that for a project of this size, it is the most effective and competitive way to decide who should develop and operate from the building. We know that’s been frustrating for the community – it has been frustrating for us too. However, we believe the details of the preferred bidder’s proposals will provide some reassurance about some of the concerns that have been raised in recent weeks:

The Arts Centre

Throughout the process it has been clear that Crouch Enders support the existing Arts Centre, run by ANA Arts Ltd, and want to see the Hall continue to support creativity within the community and the borough.

The preferred bidder’s proposal is for the Town Hall to do exactly that. FEC intend to retain the Arts Centre and are proposing that ANA continues to run it. If Cabinet agrees to their proposal, FEC and ANA will begin to work up a business plan together. Their initial conversations during the procurement process provide an indicative plan, which includes:

  • Utilising the Assembly Hall so that it can host concerts, theatrical performances, festihallvals, exhibitions and other eclectic arts events. At the moment ANA are limited by the general condition of the building and acoustic performance issues. However, FEC’s investment plans will seek to address these issues in order provide a modern facility.
  • Continuing to use the Council Chamber to provide educational/ conference/ workshop/ lecture space, as well as host weddings.
  • Retain the Supper Room as a space to offer cabaret/music/comedy nights, but also be used during the day for overspill activities from other areas in the Arts Centre

The Square

hth3The Council have made it clear throughout the procurement process that the square must remain publicly accessible at all times – this commitment will be written into the final contractual agreement. FEC fully understand the importance of the square as a focal point at the heart of Crouch End. They intend to upgrade the square and retain most of the existing greenery. Investment plans will be developed in collaboration within the community and might support establishing weekly/monthly markets so that local businesses can exhibit and sell their wares.

Ongoing Community Involvement

Given how important the Town Hall and Square are to the community, we know that Crouch Enders are keen to remain involved in how both develop. FEC understand that too, which is why they are committed to setting up a steering committee that includes local councillors and representatives from community groups to shape future decisions. In the coming months, the make-up of the committee and its terms of reference will be defined and its operation will be codified within contractual agreements. It’s also worth noting that FEC are keen to support the brilliant community activity that already happens within Crouch End, including the Crouch End Festival.

The Other Bid

Opponents of the preferred bidder have leaked selective details of one of the losing bids highlighting their proposals for the Town Hall. However, what hasn’t been shared is why the losing bid was not selected:

  • The unsuccessful bidder wasn’t proposing to guarantee the on-going operation of the building. Thus accepting their proposal would have meant no long-term guarantee that the Town Hall would remain publicly accessible following development of the residential units.
  • The unsuccessful bidder proposal created additional planning risk. They were proposing to increase the number of residential units built (adding an extra storey), which would have required a new planning application.
  • The financial offer of the unsuccessful bidder was lower than FEC’s proposal.

A hotel in Crouch End?

FEC are proposing that Dorsett Hospitality would deliver a boutique hotel in the parts of the building not set aside for an arts centre or community use. The Dorsett brand has a proven track record in operating hotels, including successfully converting and running the Dorsett Shepherd’s Bush Hotel, which sits in a Grade II Listed building and was selected by Fodor (the world’s largest travel guide publisher) as one of the top 15 new hotels in London in 2015. The preferred bidder has used their experience in the preparation of their bid and appears to have included a sufficient allowance within their business plan to cover the likely on-going costs.

Businesses currently in the Hall

The preferred bidder does not include workspaces as a part of their scheme for HTH. However, the Council is actively looking for alternative locations for those currently hiring space in the building.

As part of the Council’s capital strategy, the Council will invest £1million to refurbish Hornsey Library. As part of this work, there may be an opportunity to look at how some of the underutilised space in the library could be used for this purpose and the Council has already been approached by a local organisation interested in operating workspaces in the library.

Should we be working with an organisation like FEC?

We understand why some are concerned that FEC has parts of its business registered in the Cayman Islands for tax purposes. However, it is beyond the remit of the Council or the procurement process to solve global tax issues. Our remit is to ensure that the preferred bidder’s proposals work for the local community. That’s why refurbishing the Town Hall, installing an arts centre and boutique hotel, ensuring public access and protecting the square are the key planks of this bid. FEC have indicated their desire to deliver outcomes that benefit Crouch in partnership with local community – and we will hold them to that.

Why we can’t delay the decision

Some are proposing a delay to the decision. But the logic behind this request is that the Cabinet are not making their decision with enough evidence. The Cabinet report provides information on how the winning bid will achieve the desired outcomes of the procurement process.

Other calls are for the council to walk away from the process completely. Let’s just consider what that means. It means going back to the status quo with the building falling apart and a current operator doing something popular but without a viable solution in place for the future of the building. Walking away would also send a profoundly damaging signal to the market. Some people may not like it, but in the context of draconian cuts, all local authorities have to work with private investment. To go through a massive procurement process, for officers to clearly recommend one bidder (this wasn’t a finely balanced decision for reasons outlined above) and then for the council to walk away would almost certainly guarantee that no bidders would bother coming forward for Hornsey Town Hall again and it would threaten investment in other parts of the borough.

Final thoughts

We absolutely understand why people feel so passionately about the Town Hall and Square – we do too. Which is why we would ask you to take a balanced view of the proposals and, if you have a spare moment, to read the Cabinet report which you can find here.

We won’t make excuses for the series of events that led to the Town Hall becoming derelict and without a secure future. It was a mistake to ever let things get to this stage. But we as politicians have to deal with the situation as it currently is, not as we wish it had been before we were elected.

We genuinely believe that going to the market has been the right thing to do. The preferred bidder’s proposal will ultimately:

  • Secure refurbishment of the Town Hall to bring it back to its former glory
  • See continued provision of an Arts Centre with current tenants ANA as the preferred operator
  • See investment in the Town Hall square, protecting access to it and retaining most of its greenery
  • Set up a steering committee that includes the local community to shape future developments

If Cabinet agrees to approve officers’ recommendations to work with FEC, the process doesn’t finish there. The council will be finalising the contract and we will be working with officers to provide you with more information and ensure that your voice is heard.

On Saturday 15th October, 11am, we will be out on the Broadway to answer questions and chat through the issues outlined above. Do come along if you can.sarah joins

Jason, Natan and Sarah

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Jason, Natan and Sarah are your hardworking local Labour Cllrs.

Since we were elected in 2014 we’ve seen:

  1. Hornsey Town Hall open again with progress made towards finding a sustainable future for the building
  2. £8million invested in Park Road leisure centre including the protection of the much-loved diving board
  3. Over £14,000 invested in community groups in Crouch End to provide services for the disabled, protection of green spaces and to support art and culture including the Crouch End Festival
  4. Over £1million for roads and pavements with 56 roads designated as 20mph and almost 150 new street lights
  5. Waiting times for Homes for Haringey repairs reduced from 23 to 12 days in Crouch End

Find out more by clicking here.

This record was a major reason why former leader of the Haringey Lib Dems Sarah Elliott has joined the Labour Party. This means we now have three Labour Cllrs in Crouch End. You can read Sarah’s statement about joining Labour here.