Last night, we went before Council to present the petition so many of you signed.
Here’s what we said:
PRESENTATION OF PETITION TO FULL COUNCIL
Thank you for receiving the petition from Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society tonight, and giving us an opportunity to talk about the future of the town hall.
The original ask in the petition was for the council to:
- Consider community asset transfer of the town hall and green
- Delay the OJEU process for 6 months so that a sustainable community-led solution can be established
We are in a different place to when the petition was launched over the summer. The OJEU process has officially started, so we’re beyond the point where you the council can consider transferring the asset to the community yourselves, or pause the disposal process.
But what the petition represents is the high level of community interest in the future of HTH, and in the safeguarding of community use of and access to the building in the long term through community ownership.
It is worth explaining at this point who we are and with what legitimacy we can speak on behalf of the community on this issue.
HTHAS was set up by directors and members of the Crouch End Festival and Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum in order to enable the community to speak with a co-ordinated voice about aspirations for the town hall. The scale of the petition now signed by nearly 2500 people demonstrates the mandate that we have.
In addition, we followed the advice of your officers to set ourselves up as an umbrella body to represent the views of the different community and arts organisations in Crouch End. We have spent the last few months doing this, culminating in a meeting last Sunday with 50 people representing business, arts, cultural and community organisations from Crouch End and beyond (from Crouch End Open Studios to resident associations to Hornsey Town Hall Traders Association), all of whom signed up to the vision of HTH as an arts, community and small business hub in community ownership, with community-led governance that balances the need for commercial sustainability with community benefit. This vision also fully accords with the findings of the community consultation carried out by the HTHCT earlier this year about what the community wants from the town hall.
Our MP Catherine West also attended the meeting and spoke at length of her support for community ownership of the town hall.
We have assembled the knowledge and expertise that we need to build a project that meets all Haringey’s objectives, as well as learning the lessons from previous initiatives, and we have created the Hornsey Town Hall Community Interest Company to promote a community solution.
We have seen, in our prior conversations with individual Council members and with Council officers, a common thread – the desire to avoid situations which could be perceived as betraying a bias, and to avoid situations which could be seen as giving rise to a conflict of interest.
If I might address these in reverse order…
Firstly, conflict of interest. There is no conflict here. We are community representatives. So are you.
You have oft repeated your desire to see the best possible outcome for long term safeguarded community use and access. So have we.
If we both represent the same community, and their desires and aspirations – well, how can there be a conflict?
The answer is…this is not a conflict of interest, this is a confluence of interest.
Secondly, a perceived bias. You are, frankly, supposed to have a bias in favour of the community. It’s your role as representatives of the community.
And anyone who has looked through the criteria in the PQQ will know, by virtue of the weightings you have placed on those criteria, that you have a bias in favour of the community. This is not news to anyone.
It is true that, at some point in the future, we may back a bid. Or we may not. But so will you, by way of endorsement of the eventual winning bidder. Or not. We will both have to choose at some point, but…
Until either one of us reach that point, we have common cause.
Surely, we must be able to find a way to work together to achieve our joint aspiration for the site.
The truth is that we should be helping each other get this thing done in the best possible way. And if the best possible way does not present itself, we should both be willing to start over. And do it again until we get it right.
We know that the council too is looking for a solution to the town hall that removes you of liability through a long term sustainable business model, while satisfying the need for community use and access.
Given where we are in the process, our only route to community asset ownership is in partnership with a developer who may come forward through the OJEU process.
We believe that only a partnership between a developer and the community interest company can provide the surety that the community and council want for meaningful community use and access in the long term, while still enabling the council to realise the land value inherent in the carpark, build much needed homes in the borough and remove liability for the town hall from the council’s books.
Bringing the town hall and green into community ownership will help our neighbourhood to thrive and create long-term resilience through social and economic benefits to the area and the borough – further aims that we know the council share.
With common cause between your aspiration and ours, we would like to open up the discussion about the ways in which we could work together to make this happen. We understand the constraints of the OJEU process but would like to suggest ways in which we might all achieve the best possible outcome for the town hall and green.
- Public acknowledgement of the benefits of bringing the town hall and green into community ownership
- Encouragement by the council that each development partner that gets past the PQQ stage make contact with us through the Horsey Town Hall Community Interest Company as the only body on the schedule of Community Groups that can legitimately represent the views of the community and local organisations
- Open and transparent OJEU process that lets the community be part of the process. For example: council co-ordination of a public exhibition of the community use and access offer from the bidders at Competitive Dialogue stage. This can be done anonymously so no bidders’ names will be revealed and will give people the opportunity to feedback on the different proposals to help inform the council and HTHCT’s decision on the scoring of this aspect of the bid
These are just some suggestions, but we look forward to hearing from council members about other ways in which we can work together with the council to realise our joint aspirations.
There’e even a video: here. We start at about 1 hour and 10 minutes in.