Caption for top photo

"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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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.


• Alexandra Palace: Gambling back on the Agenda

THE latest news from Alexandra Palace is that there is an Application in with the Council for a premises licence under the Gambling Act 2005. It happens to be for a permanent track betting licence. But it is more evidence of the determination of Haringey Council’s favoured development partner (Firoka) to bring gambling of one kind or another into the Alexandra Palace Trust – a registered Charity – with Council connivance.

The first Application for this gambling licence was made by Firoka (Alexandra Palace) Ltd. on 9 November 2007 for Track Betting and the licence would cover betting services provided for the World Darts Championship and other sporting events held at the hall at the Premises.

It is questionable as to whether Firoka should be in Alexandra Palace (AP) at all – and more questionable after the AP sale Order was quashed by the High Court. But, less than five weeks after the High Court quashed the sale of AP to Firoka, that same company applied for a permanent track betting licence at AP. On their original application form, they confirmed that they (Firoka the applicant) had the right to occupy the premises.

This was a little too rich, even for Haringey Council. Haringey’s Chief Executive confirmed recently that Firoka Management
“was given a very short term licence to trade at the Palace”
although what is meant by very short term, we do not know.

The secretive Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd. (APTL) is a company wholly owned by the Trust. And so Firoka’s cronies in APTL are now applying in that name for a licence which will doubtless be used by Firoka. APTL is now a shell, having prematurely handed over to Firoka both management and the income from the Palace, in return for – nothing. Is this not another example of the inherent conflict of interest in having a Charitable Trust board comprised of political appointees who implement Council policy?

The gambling Application makes a mockery of the licensing process. The puppet company of a puppet board of the ruling party, seeks permission to have permanent gambling in the principal asset of a Charitable Trust, whose beneficiaries are all of us. In effect, the Council is asking itself for permission.

Can this be regarded as good governance, an arms-length transaction or free from conflict of interest? Does anyone imagine that the public consultation about APTL-Firoka’s gambling licence will be any more sincere or effective than the public Consultation over the sale of the entire building? The so-called Consultation about the sale was condemned by the High Court as being fatally flawed, it was quashed and costs were awarded against the Council. The Council put much pressure on the Charity Commission to ensure that public consultation was limited, unfair and uninformed.

If there are submissions from the public about the gambling Application, what is the betting (off-track of course) that any objections will be ruled vexatious? Objections will be ignored because it is almost a forgone conclusion that Haringey will award itself a licence. Does anyone doubt that this is an incestuous relationship and that Haringey will award itself this licence? I’m sure that APTC and the Council are all in the same team; let us wait and see how independent is Haringey’s ‘Licensing Team’.

The intention of Haringey’s partner (Firoka) is to demolish the world’s first television studios and we are expected to be reassured on that score because it would need a Planning Application that requires approval by Haringey’s Planning committee. Does anyone believe Haringey will not give their favoured development partner all the approvals they demand?

Haringey continues to try to force through the sale, most aspects of which remain shrouded in obsessive secrecy. Is the gambling licence application another example of the corruption of normal processes that we now expect from this Council over AP?

How many more irregularities before the Charity Commission steps in to remove the current incompetent Trustees and replaces them with committed, independent Trustees of integrity?

GAMBLING: Firoka and the Casino
THE other manifestation of Firoka’s strong desire for gambling at AP is the Casino. The chairman of the Trust board has claimed that it was a myth that a Casino was ever a part of Firoka’s proposals. (Firoka certainly wants a Casino, although a Super casino now appears less likely.) A Casino – later described by Cllr. Cooke merely as an ‘option’ – is clearly shown on Firoka’s architects plans in the AP basement.

Cllr. Cooke said “One thing that needs to be highlighted is that since the implementation of the Gambling Act, the casino is no longer a realistic option.” Another thing that needs to be highlighted is that Cllr. Cooke sees the Casino option solely in terms of whether or not it is able to proceed under an Act of Parliament.

Is Cllr. Cooke relieved or disappointed on behalf of Haringey’s favoured partner, that the Gambling Act makes Firoka’s casino no longer a realistic option? Is he relieved because of the potential embarrassment or disappointed that Gordon Brown has stopped further Super Casinos? Would he prefer that the casino was a realistic option? Prostitution might fit with the casino and a hotel but there’s probably an Act of Parliament implemented that means that that too was not “a realistic option.” Money laundering, drug dealing and organized crime might also fit well with the Casino.

A small scale casino is allowed under current legislation so some sort of casino is a real possibility. On the gambling licence application form, it is just another checkbox: Casinos come in three sizes: Regional, Large or Small. Which size is favoured by our Charitable Trust?

Does the Chairman see casinos as desirable in Muswell Hill or anywhere else in Haringey? Does he believe that Firoka’s desired Casino – and all that would go with it – would not promote social problems? Those seems to be the prior questions. Politicians sometimes show moral courage and leadership. It’s troubling that gambling is seen only in managerial terms rather than in any moral context, the more so from the representative of a party that prides itself on looking after the more vulnerable in society.

Although Councillor Cooke has claimed to represent the position of the SaveAllyPally group, he is careful to avoid mentioning its principal address which has copies of the evidence from the High Court case that he wants to avoid publicizing. Why did his Council have costs awarded against them in the High Court over AP? That web site also contains the goals of the campaign and much additional information.

Haringey Council has prostituted itself over the sale of Alexandra Palace, but they are not a very business-like prostitute – the reported sale price of £1.5 million will pay for just 24 months’ worth of regular additional costs they have agreed to take over (the park and road upkeep), before the extra costs become a burden on Haringey’s long-suffering ratepayers. After spending £100 million on AP over the years, it doesn’t seem like a good deal to flog it for just £1.5 million.

Sent to local newspapers on
20 November 2007