Re: Disposal of Hornsey Town Hall
Dear Cllr Hearn,
I fear that Cllr Strickland has mis-characterised the role of HTHAS in the procurement process and our relationship with with the Creative Trust and the rival bidder, and his comment are badly in need of clarification. In particular,
Cllr Strickland writes:
“As a piece of context, it’s important to say that the Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society (HTHAS) was set up by a number of residents to challenge the Council’s plans on Hornsey Town Hall in opposition to the work of the community-led Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust, which is the building preservation trust for the building.”
HTHAS was not set up in opposition to the work of the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust, but rather to champion their own consultation document. The document is labelled “Community Use and Access Consultation” (HTHCT, April/May 2015). In the section titled “Community ownership and management of Hornsey Town Hall” (P8), the document reads:
“Participants expressed a desire at the workshops that the community should play a role in the governance of the town hall, and felt that a community-accountable body should be established that would oversee and monitor the mixed uses and heritage commitments within HTH, ensuring that the balance between commercial and community use that is agreed with the successful partner was upheld.
The community would expect that publicly accountable governance models will be considered by prospective developers. Possible models were discussed during the workshops. These included:
- The transfer of agreed elements of the Town Hall from the developer to a Community Interest Company set up for the purpose of managing the Town Hall for community benefit
- Setting up a Community Board which has oversight and governance of the operation of the Town Hall to ensure that the Town Hall is operated in way which brings significant benefits to the community.”
HTHAS appeared before full Council to argue exactly those points.
In all subsequent engagement, research, outreach, and meetings with developers with respect to Community Use and Access, we have taken as our guide the results of HTHCT’s consultation. Results of that consultation concluded that over 50% of respondents wanted creative arts uses and a community facility. Only 0.37% of respondents mentioned a hotel.
Our work since then, in engaging with any and all bidders who contacted us, has been undertaken as a result of HTHCT’s status as official adjudicator of the Community Use and Access offer. This status precluded HTHCT from public or informal conversation around the progress of the disposal. HTHAS are outside the process campaigning for the best possible outcome, and HTHCT are inside the process judging results. We are not in opposition. In fact, it is fair to say that we were invited to take this role by Haringey Council as they included us on the register of interested parties – anticipating that prospective bidders would contact us.
Cllr Strickland further writes:
“HTHAS, as you mention, were involved in the rival bid in the Council’s procurement process to find a future operator for the Town Hall. There are therefore not happy at all that the procurement process recommended the other bidder! That’s fair enough, but their comments need to be seen in this context.”
To clarify, HTHAS met with 6 of the bidders for Hornsey Town Hall, and communicated to each and every one the community consensus reflected in HTHCT’s consultation results. We were not “involved” in the rival bid except to the extent we answered any questions they had around community use and access. Be assured, we would have given – and indeed did give – the same answers to any bidder when they asked the same questions.
It is true to say that HTHAS vastly prefers the rival bid to the recommended one. Once again, we refer to the HTHCT Consultation, the results of which are clearly more in accordance with the rival proposal than that for a hotel. Our disappointment does not grow from having supported the losing side unless you consider the 99.63% of the community who did not mention a hotel to be the losing side.
In which case, yes.
Insofar as what we hope to achieve by a delay, we think we are justified in saying that most of the communication regarding the preferred bidder has been disseminated by way of Facebook posts. And – Jason and Natan bravely standing in the rain notwithstanding – there are a great many people who are not as fully engaged on social media and have not had the chance to have their voices heard, or indeed to hear Council’s explanations. We think a one-month delay will not jeopardise the process but could easily lead to greater participation in the discussions.
On 11 October 2016 at 11:49, Cllr Hearn Kirsten <Kirsten.Hearn@haringey.gov.uk> wrote:
Hi Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society
I am very sorry but I can’t be at cabinet tonight for this item.
I have had more than 100 objections to a decision being made at Cabinet tonight about this issue. I have read every one. it may take me a few days to respond to everyone, so in the meantime, I hope the following serves.
I understand that you are asking for a “stay of execution” for a month. I am not clear what this will serve however. It would be helpful if you could share what you would like to achieve by this month’s delay in making the decision.
Hornsey Town Hall is an iconic building in the history of public service. I am concerned that it remains a vibrant part of our community; a space in which we, the community can be involved.
I dislike the fact that the preferred bidder is registered in The Cayman Islands. They use consultants in the public sector who use personal service companies to avoid tax. Their earnings however, are dependent on the public purse. it seems wrong to me that the contract is going to a company that avoids tax by being registered in the Cayman Islands. This however is the unfair nature of public procurement processes.
I put some questions to the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and am sharing below, what I got.
Councillor Kirsten Hearn
Labour Councillor for Stroud Green Ward
07583 119 123
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Cllr Alan Strickland writes:
Thanks for your email about this.
As a piece of context, it’s important to say that the Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society (HTHAS) was set up by a number of residents to challenge the Council’s plans on Hornsey Town Hall in opposition to the work of the community-led Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust, which is the building preservation trust for the building.
HTHAS, as you mention, were involved in the rival bid in the Council’s procurement process to find a future operator for the Town Hall. There are therefore not happy at all that the procurement process recommended the other bidder! That’s fair enough, but their comments need to be seen in this context.
On the town hall, the brief background is that there have been a number of failed plans since council staff moved out. The most recent was that from 2011, we were working really hard with Mount view Academy of Theatre Arts (who were based in Wood Green) to support plans to turn the Town Hall into a new home for this vibrant theatre school. Unfortunately, after four years, when work became more advanced, Mount view realised that the costs of transforming the building were higher than they’d expected, and that they simply couldn’t raise the money needed to make the project work. In January 2015, Mount view announced that they were pulling out of the project.
The town hall is a fantastic Grade II* listed building. However, it costs £350k to run each year and needs expert heritage restoration that will cost a bare minimum of £10m, and likely much more. So, given the need to get major investment into this building and to save it for future generations, we were determined not to just leave the building or let the whole thing drift.
In June 2015, I took a paper to Cabinet to launch an open bidding process, using the usual procurement process. This was to seek a long term partner for the building. This has now concluded (public procurement is a slow process!!) and a bidder is being recommended to the next Cabinet. The bidder is proposing a mixed plan, with a café/restaurant, community arts centre and a boutique hotel. The town hall already has planning permission – granted in 2010 – for homes at the back, and so the bidder will build these as well.
To turn to your specific questions:
The council cannot afford the £10m-£15m cost of restoring the town hall, so when the council sought planning permission in 2010, it asked for homes at the back to help pay this cost. It’s really important to recognise this point – the housing was only ever proposed to raise money to save the town hall. For this reason, the planning permission only involved 6 affordable homes. All of the council’s usual accessibility planning policies would apply to these homes.
At the start of the process, we held a packed public meeting in the town hall (over 320 people attended), a public exhibition in Hornsey Library, set up an email newsletter for interested residents and held three workshops with representatives of the main community groups and residents associations in Crouch End. There has therefore been extensive work to engage residents and community leaders in this process and to carefully explain our plans.
We put two Crouch End residents on the assessment panel, so local people were directly involved in the procurement, which is very unusual. Community representatives have been involved through the process. We also sent an update email to our resident email list during the procurement to keep people up to date.
This week, we’re issuing a press release, placing information on the dedicated HTH webpage www.haringey.gov.uk/hth , sending an email to our resident email list, tweeting and having a letter published in the Ham and High.
Once the report has been to Cabinet, the bidder will be putting staff in the town hall to meet residents and answer questions.
In addition to resident communication, we’ve had a steering group internally attended by the ward councillors and a number of recent catch-ups with them to share information.
We don’t know yet exactly how many jobs will be created – the hotel won’t open for around 2 years, but I will circulate these details when we know them.
- Community involvement
The bidder has made a clear commitment to set up a community steering group to oversee the arts centre and the community use of the town hall square/green, so there will be ongoing involvement from the community.
I hope this helps Kirsten
Councillor Alan Strickland
Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing
for information about this.
From: HornseyTownHall AppreciationSociety [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 09 October 2016 16:42
To: Cllr Doron Natan; Cllr Arthur Jason; Cllr Elliott Sarah; Cllr Mann Jennifer; Cllr Jogee Adam; Cllr Weston Elin; Cllr Sahota Raj; Cllr Hearn Kirsten; Cllr Gallagher Tim
Cc: Cllr Kober Claire; Catherine WEST; firstname.lastname@example.org; Cllr Strickland Alan; email@example.com
Subject: Disposal of Hornsey Town Hall
The Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society is writing to you to ask for support in urging Haringey’s cabinet to postpone for a minimum of one month the decision to accept the officers’ recommendation to adopt Far East Consortium International Ltd (FEC) as the preferred bidder for Hornsey Town Hall.
Public concern and hostility is growing after the announcement of FEC, a Hong Kong based property developer registered in the Cayman Islands, as recommended preferred bidder. This announcement was made the very same day Mayor Sadiq Khan launched an inquiry into overseas property speculation in London.
A significant number of important factors surround the process :
- Are councillors satisfied that sufficient due diligence to the suitability and long term strategy of the winning bidder was carried out?
- The council’s own market testing found no demand for a hotel in Crouch End – has an adequate risk assessment been made of this proposal to look at its long term viability?
- Catherine West has called for the council to re-examine the level of affordable housing in the scheme (a miserable 3% of the total). This objective was deliberately omitted from the procurement on the advice of consultants GVA (this advice was made public in the paper ‘GVA Options Appraisal‘ in March 2015).
- Why is no new planning application proposed for a development materially different to earlier schemes?
Do our local councillors support the call to look again at the lack of affordable housing, and the loss of space for the arts and small businesses?
HTH feel that this decision is being rushed: more information is needed and there should be opportunity for public and business discussion and debate.