We have now received a response to our open letter to FEC about their Hornsey Town Hall planning application. The response provides some reassurances coupled with promises for more information in the near future. Most significantly an announcement on an arts centre operator in the week commencing September 18th and the promise to publish details of restoration costs.
As we said in our original letter, we believe this application has the potential to represent a major milestone on the road to restoring the Town Hall and providing the people of Haringey and beyond an opportunity to enjoy the building. The response from FEC is welcome but we need more detail before we can support their application and we urge them to work even harder between now and the planning committee meeting at which the application will be decided (most likely to be in November or December 2017) to address the concerns that we and the community have about this application.
The full text of the letter is pasted below.
8 September 2017
Dear Cllr Arthur, Cllr Doron and Cllr Elliott,
Re: Planning application for the restoration of Hornsey Town Hall
Thank you for your letter dated 9 August, in which you set out your views on our recently submitted planning application for the restoration of Hornsey Town Hall.
We apologise for the delay in responding but we wanted to ensure we could provide you as full a reply as possible. This is our first response to you. There will be a further letter from us which will set out more detail on the restoration costs for Hornsey Town Hall.
We were pleased to see you have welcomed progress on the public realm linked to this site. Our proposals include investment of at least £1million to improve the public realm. This includes an enhanced Town Square, using a design chosen by local people, and a new space named Town Hall Gardens which was created following community feedback
asking that the site should be more permeable and allow access from the Town Hall to the Library. This will mean more not less green space in the heart of Crouch End.
We want to assure you that the arts centre is a top priority for us as it is for the local community. We have been working tirelessly on this over the summer and during week commencing 18 September, we will announce the appointment of a top-class specialist arts operator as well as setting out how the community can get involved, by making suggestions for the programme of uses and events. This programme will ensure the Town Hall is vibrant throughout the day and into evening.
You have urged us to work with the Crouch End Community to do all we can to get this application right. We want to assure you that is exactly what we have always been set on doing which is why we have had numerous meetings with stakeholder groups, held two public exhibitions in May (attended by over 540 people) and presented our finals plans over two sessions in July prior to the submission of the application (attended by 204 people). To date we have delivered an introductory leaflet, invite to the May consultation and invite to the July sessions to 10,000 homes within our consultation zone. We have also regularly displayed adverts and press releases in the local newspaper, used social media advertising to reach a wide audience and updated those who have signed up for email updates. We are committed to continuing this level of engagement moving forward.
Full details of the community consultation/stakeholder engagement we have carried out (which is ongoing) can be found in our Statement of Community Involvement submitted as part of the planning application:
We will also set up a Steering Group six months prior to the completion of restoration work which will include representatives of local stakeholder groups and will meet quarterly. The group will advise us on the operations of Hornsey Town Hall. In due course we will bring forward a terms of reference for the group and invite applications for membership.
We hold all the concerns you have raised very seriously and have responded to them in turn below. I should also flag that we are drawing on an existing planning consent for the site and an adopted site allocation for redevelopment based on that consent.
You encourage us to provide a detailed breakdown of how much will be spent restoring and refurbishing the Grade II* listed Town Hall. We have committed to sharing headline figures from the cost plan on the Town Hall restoration and will do so publicly in a further letter to you in the coming weeks.
More generally, the Economic Viability Appraisal Report submitted alongside the application is an independent assessment of the viability of the proposed development, composed in line with guidance provided by RICS and the GLA. This forms the basis for discussions with the council’s planning officers and consultants as part of the planning process. These discussions will determine how much affordable housing can be provided as part of the scheme and are ongoing. It is not unusual for these discussions to continue up until the determination of the planning application.
You raised a number of important points and questions about our viability report. While negotiations with the council are ongoing it would be inappropriate for us to comment on these in any detail. Please rest assured that all of your points form part of our discussions with the planning department at Haringey Council.
If the independent assessment of our viability report finds that there is enough money in the scheme to provide affordable housing while allowing us to make a profit commensurate with the high risk involved in the project (something which forms a key part of the National Planning Policy Framework) then affordable housing will of course be provided as part of the scheme.
Restoration of the Grade II* listed Town Hall
As mentioned above, we have promised to share headline figures from the cost plan for the Town Hall. Our commitment to the sensitive restoration of the Town Hall, alongside improving internal layouts, creating better access, generating more usable spaces with a better public offer, is firm and underpins this project. We will write to you with details of the restoration costs in the coming weeks.
As part of the planning submission we submitted an Historic Building Report, carried out by Donald Insall Associates. Compiling this report included historical research, using both archival and secondary material and site inspections. The investigation has established the significance of the buildings and this has informed the development
of proposals for change to the buildings. A summary of the report is available here:
A top-class arts centre
As we are fully committed to delivering the restoration of the Town Hall underpinned by the arts centre, it’s important for us to make sure the right arts operator is onboard. We have been working hard to secure a top-class operator who understands the local area and can use the flexible community and events space to allow multiple arts and community uses to take place alongside one another. As mentioned above, we will be announcing the appointment of the operator during week commencing 18 September. Their appointment is not tied to the planning application and we feel it has been important to take the time to get this decision right. Once the operator is appointed, we will be publicising a “meet the operator” event where the community can find out more and ask any questions they may have.
You raise the issue of overlooking, particularly relating to Primezone Mews. As part of the planning submission we have submitted a Daylight and Sunlight Assessment alongside a series of verified views. We have also recently submitted a Supplementary Statement on Overlooking and Privacy which seeks to address the concerns raised by near neighbours. It can be found here:
Working with the experienced project team on this proposal, which includes Make Architects and Donald Insall Associates, we are confident our plans are sensitive to our neighbours, both in terms of the location and the proposed design of the two new residential blocks.
Our vision is the same as yours, the spirit of this project is to connect all communities within Crouch End and the wider borough, to activate the Town Hall as the heart of the community, welcoming the public to enjoy the space and bringing new life to the area. The success of this scheme is linked to integrating it within the neighbourhood; we can assure you that our proposals will not be a “gated community”.
We have given much consideration to this matter and working with an experienced transport consultant we have submitted a Transport Assessment, Travel Plan and a Deliveries and Servicing Management Plan as part of the planning application. Furthermore, we will also be contributing approximately £3million in Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds, which is to assist the council on delivering infrastructure to support the development of the surrounding area. We have been clear from the outset that new residents will be unable to apply for parking permits for neighbouring residential roads.
At present, the amount of affordable housing remains subject to viability. We will always be mindful of balancing the needs of the Grade II* listed Town Hall restoration, alongside other community priorities such as affordable housing, and will continue to work closely with the council on the viability as part of the planning submission. As you are aware, our Economic Viability Appraisal Report will be scrutinised by an independent assessor appointed by the council.
Once again, if independent assessment of our viability report finds that there is enough money in the scheme to provide affordable housing while allowing us to make a profit commensurate with the high risk involved in the project (something which forms a key part of the National Planning Policy Framework) then affordable housing will of course be provided as part of the scheme.
Our discussions with the council will determine how much affordable housing can be provided as part of the scheme and are ongoing. It is not unusual for these discussions to continue up until the determination of the planning application.
You refer to concerns about the length of the consultation period. Since your letter, you will be aware that this has been extended.
In summary, we have been working tirelessly on this project and have sought to reflect the views and interests of the local community, whilst at the same time ensuring our proposals are realistic and will secure the future of the Grade II* Listed Town Hall. We believe our proposals are deliverable with a workable hotel offer, while creating flexible spaces in the Town Hall for the arts operator to adapt to demand.
We are continuing to work with the council through the formal planning application process and will keep you informed throughout. We will write to you with a further letter setting out details of the restoration costs in the coming weeks. Separate to this, we would be happy to meet with you at a time that is convenient.
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
As local Cllrs we will be looking to make representations on behalf of the community at the planning committee meeting at which the application will be decided (most likely to be in November or December 2017). If you would like to get in touch to let us know your views so that your voice can be heard please do drop us a line by clicking here for contact details.
Finally, commenting on planning applications can be complicated and the Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum have put together a useful note on how to do so here. They are also holding an event on the subject and you can find out about that here. For more information about the planning committee (which will decide the Hornsey Town Hall application) you can go here.