Haringey Council look set to approve plans that will finally see a long term settlement made for the future of the now iconic 1930s Hornsey Town Hall Building in the very heart of Crouch End. The question remains of how many compromises have been made and how many are yet to come in the Council's efforts to finally get the building off their hands.
The future that the Council have in mind for the much-loved ex-town hall would combine community space, a boutique hotel, cafe/restaurants and new homes. The precise details of the plan are yet to be released, but some details are emerging.
The community based activities will probably be mostly be concentrated in, but not limited to, 'the more historically significant parts of the building', including the assembly hall, committee room and council chamber.
Apparently the hotel will be mainly in the east and west wings of the building but it will not be excluded from the more attractive parts of the building. A Council statement says:
The scheme intends to use the existing planning consent, however it will require some amendments for any parts of the listed buildings which now have a different use e.g. the hotel.
The Council has sought to reassure residents on the future of the town hall square. They say that although it is included as part of the lease, the developer will apparently "recognise that community use of both the outdoor and indoor spaces is integral to the success of the town hall".
The 'cafe/restaurants' would be on the ground floor, though exactly which part is not yet clear. Wherever they are located, it seems unlikely that they will offer the same community flavour of the current occupants, who it seems will be ushered out of the back door once work begins:
All of those currently hiring space are on short term hire agreements, and we will work with occupiers and advise on whether there are other local Council owned premises they can operate from.
The new homes would apparently be mostly concentrated on the land at the rear of the Town Hall. However, the requirement for affordable housing that is supposed to be a key part of any significant development in the borough has once again been all but waived. The Council said:
Hornsey Town Hall has been recognised as a challenging project because the responsibility of carrying out the necessary extensive works to improve a dilapidated Grade II* listed building and finding a financially sustainable long term operation for the building has significant cost implications. This is a unique project in which the restoration of the art deco listed building, and our guarantee of community access have been prioritised.
This means that the developer will include just four affordable units. The Council say that "any increase in the amount of affordable housing within the scheme will impact on the viability of the project." The financial calculations that underpin this position have been outlined in the top secret 'viability assessment' common to all developments and which the public are never allowed to see.
This isn't the first time Haringey Council have played fast and loose with their stated priorities. Two years ago in a searing article in The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright wrote:
Across the country – and especially in superheated London, where stratospheric land values beget accordingly bloated developments – authorities are allowing planning policies to be continually flouted, affordable housing quotas to be waived, height limits breached, the interests of residents endlessly trampled. Places are becoming ever meaner and more divided, as public assets are relentlessly sold off.
Haringey awaits the momentous arrival of Tottenham Hotspur’s new £400m football stadium. This bulbous mothership was promised to bring 200 new homes, half of which would be “affordable”, and an abundance of public benefits to the area. But, once again, the affordable component has been mysteriously waived, replaced with 285 flats for solely private sale, while the Section 106 contribution has been reduced from an agreed £16m to just £477,000 – a token contribution towards transport improvements.
Haringey Council’s cabinet will decide later this month whether their favoured developer, a consortium led by Far East Consortium International will be confirmed as the preferred bidder for the Town Hall project.
If approval is given, the Far East Consortium will start working up more detailed plans for the building and work could start on site as early as autumn 2017.
It remains to be seen how many more compromises Haringey Council will be prepared to make to wash its hands of the too-difficult-to-deal-with-town-hall as they dance along the yellow brick road hand-in-hand with the developer to the place where the great wizard will grant full planning permission.
Had you heard about the slight oversight on the part of the developers who gave away all their secret numbers with a slip of the finger on a computer. This piece sets out the Crouch End Councillors' response to the error.