HTHAS welcomes the news that we are nearing the restoration of this much loved but neglected building and that it will soon be taken off the Historic England At Risk register, but there are substantial unanswered questions about the process and the choice of bidder.
The detail released on Friday is disappointingly thin, and we hope the release of the papers for the Cabinet of October 18th will make available considerably more information. The concerns of community and arts groups as well as local residents deserve a full and open response, rather than the continuation of a process without any transparency or consultation.
If “details for community use are still being developed” how can the council be sure that this bidder has met the requirements of community use and access so important to the project?
Haringey plan to sell a 125 year lease to Coplan Estates and the Far East Consortium (FEC), the owners of Dorsett Hotels. FEC are a Hong Kong based company registered in the Cayman Islands, a highly leveraged business with a track record of fast asset turnover, quickly disposing of completed projects.
We are alarmed that Haringey do not appear to have employed an outside specialist financial advisor for the procurement. At a time of increased concern about the destabilising effect of overseas property speculation in London, we ask whether Haringey has adequately assessed medium term risk to the project.
Unsurprisingly, there are considerable doubts over the viability of a luxury hotel in Crouch End – even Haringey’s own market testing in 2014 failed to find justification or a market. The relatively small size (55 bedrooms) raises questions about how it fits into the FEC portfolio of 200-300 bedroom hotels, and increases further the uncertainty about their long term commitment to the project. If a hotel fails, what future uses do the council expect in the building?
Real local concerns exist about the future of the 74 businesses and 130 people that are based in HTH. We await detail about council efforts to assist with alternative workspace – but the economic impact on Crouch End and the loss of opportunities for young people starting businesses is worrying.
Haringey’s own policies, together with the priorities of Mayor Sadiq Kahn, are to support SMEs and creative and cultural enterprises. Alas the council’s choice seems a missed opportunity to find a project of real value to the local economy – one that continues the popular programme and opportunities of the current Arts Centre model.