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"Hello Radiolympia. This is direct television from the studios at Alexandra Palace!" *

THESE were the immortal words spoken to camera by Elizabeth Cowell and received at the big Radio show at Olympia, in West London. This was amongst similar test transmissions during August 1936, prior to the beginning of regular broadcasting just a couple of months later, on 2 November 1936.

Alexandra Palace was the birthplace of scheduled public, "high" definition television broadcasting in the UK and arguably, the world.

The American Modern Mechanix magazine of May 1935, described this as, England Will Broadcast First Chain Television Programs, to "Lookers".

BBC Studios A & B are the world's oldest surviving television studios.

YET in 2007, our People’s Palace was to be sold down the river by its very guardians – the Trustee – the London Borough of Haringey. The TV studios were to be destroyed with the connivance of the local council. Here is raw uncensored opinion and information about the scandal of the attempted fire-sale of our Charitable Trust’s asset, for property development. It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.

AFTER receiving a slap-down from the High Court (2007, October 5), two and a half years went by before the council finally abandoned its 15-year-old policy of "holistic" sale (i.e. lock stock and barrel). Then there was an attempt at partial sale ("up to two-thirds") to a music operator but without governance reform. To tart the place up for a developer, the council blithely sought about a million pounds towards this goal, a further sum of cash to be burnt.

THE local council has proved itself, to everyone's satisfaction, to have been a poor steward and guardian for over 20 years. Now, the master plan (below) developed under the new CEO Duncan Wilson OBE deserves to succeed.

It would be also be a big step forward to have a Trust Board at least partly independent of Haringey Council. 'Outside' experts would be an advantage. They'd likely be more interested, committed, of integrity and offer greater continuity. Bringing independent members onto the board and freeing it from political control would be the best assurance of success, sooner.


• LBH unable to distinguish truth from falsehood

THERE is an old Turkish proverb which holds that, no matter how far you’ve gone down a road having taken the wrong turning, go back. Haringey Council has yet to demonstrate they understand this.

A total of 328 people wrote to the Charity Commission during their ‘Consultation’ over granting of a 125-year Lease of Alexandra Palace last December. I was one of the smaller number of 324 who wrote expressing concern and who were ignored.

Haringey Council is determined to turn a blind eye to the destruction of the world’s first TV studios and site of the first TV broadcasting - and was seeking to cover it up. They gambled that no one would be brave enough to take them on and they lost.

The High Court of Justice recently ruled that the Consultation (about Haringey’s shady deal) was unfair and fatally-flawed. The Palace’s Trustees had tried to bulldoze it through. After the damning double defeat by the Judicial Review, many questions are now raised about our Council that manipulates the AP Trust Board.

The Judge was so cross with the Trustees and their behaviour that he awarded costs against them (he said that the Trustees were “the authors of their own misfortune”). Unless the Board Chairman is found personally liable, this cash will come out of the hide of us ratepayers along with all the other money Haringey have wasted along the way.

Will anyone take responsibility for this debacle? Was there no one on the Board who saw this coming? The Chairman of the Alexandra Palace Trust Board will need to consider his position. The quality of advice received by the AP Trust Board from the Board’s Solicitor has to be called into question. The Trustees were prepared to - and did – bully the Charity Commission and drag the Commission’s name into the mud. The quality of advice and the behaviour of Haringey’s in-house legal advisors might also be questioned.

Does Councillor Cooke feel so wronged by the High Court decision that he will Appeal it? The puppet Trust may even have left themselves open to legal action from their preferred developer, Firoka, on the grounds that Firoka was mislead by the AP Trust over the requirement to make the Lease public.

The current Board Chairman, Councillor M. Cooke, was not responsible for the original misconceived policies of the Board. The previous boss Charles Adje vacated the hot-seat in the nick of time, earlier this year. But when Cllr. Cooke accepted the poison-chalice promotion, he continued the same misguided policies with real zeal.

Cooke set about a personal attack of questionable truthfulness on a private citizen (Jacob O’Callaghan) who had the temerity to ask inconvenient questions about AP. (What drives an elected politician to behave like this towards an honest historian?). But that resident was not cowed and was still confident enough to initiate a Judicial Review. And he now has the satisfaction of having a High Court Judge rule in his favour and see issued a stinging judgment against the Charity Commission. But can we now trust the very ‘Interested Party’, Cooke’s Trust?

Cllr. Cooke’s bulldozer, fuelled with high-octane hubris, has hit the steel wall of the law. Cooke had earlier accused O’Callaghan of being incorrect, misleading and wrong and had asserted that a copy of the AP Lease was on the resident’s website. Mr O’Callaghan is owed an apology, together with the hundreds of other people who wrote in to the Charity Commission expressing concern about Haringey’s shady deal.

In a debate on The Future of Alexandra Palace in a full Council meeting of 16 July 2007, that I attended, Cllr. Cooke blustered:
"All of this has been discussed, is in the public domain."

Reality check:

Since December 2006, and under the Freedom of Information Act (2000), I have sought documents from Haringey about the disposal of The People’s Palace, but without success.

Despite repeated requests, Haringey Council’s Corporate Legal Services (HCLS) refuse to confirm that the Chairman’s statement is true. They studiously ignore the fact that they are well-placed to give an authoritative answer:

The arm of the Council dealing with these requests (i.e. stonewalling) is none other than HCLS. And they knew better than anyone that the future of the Palace is not in the public domain: because they are the very outfit whose job it is to make certain that the sale documents remained concealed from the public!

The secrecy that surrounds the sale of AP is obsessive. Even the building survey, which we paid for, is marked Confidential.

Haringey’s lawyers really owe more loyalty to their political bosses - regardless of the truth - than to the public. If HCLS are unwilling to give an opinion it will need to go to the UK Standards Board unless some contrition is shown. The public deserves more integrity.

At the first forum in which Haringey was obliged to fight about AP on a level playing-field which they were unable to manipulate - the High Court - they were comprehensively defeated. Will they learn from this or attempt to drive on as before? Unfortunately, this dénouement is only the latest chapter in a story of deceit and incompetence by Haringey over AP that goes back years.

To Cllr. Cooke I say: park the bulldozer, switch off the engine and climb down. Stop attempting to flog the People’s Palace for peanuts, or at all. Talk to the many people who have more vision and knowledge about AP than the current Trustees and whose attention is focused on more than just getting rid of AP at any price.

If you cannot do these things for the citizens of this Borough, indeed for this city and nation, hand over to a more competent, experienced operator who can.

[letter to local newspapers
15 October 2007]