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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Councillor Cooke and censorship

COUNCILLOR M. Cooke – Chair of the Alexandra Palace Trust Board for just a few days – launched an attack (Hornsey Journal 21 June, p.16) on a rate-payer who is concerned about the fate of Alexandra Palace and – due to the connivance of Haringey Council – the impending demolition of the world’s first TV studios.
“to do anything to the [Alexandra Palace] Park other than manage and improve it is simply not on anyone’s agenda.”
This might be easier to believe if the only ‘agenda’ that exists on the subject was full public knowledge (i.e. the Lease & related documents). But Cooke’s Council has gone to some trouble to maintain a hidden agenda that contains the details that are either commercially or politically sensitive. Cooke stated:
“… O’Callaghan claims the details of the lease have never been made public, yet he has a copy on his web site. ...”
Not only is Mr O’Callaghan telling the truth – i.e. that the details of the Lease have never been made public – but Cooke dissembles when he says there is a copy on [the] web-site.

That document, which was all that was available to Save Ally Pally,
  1. was doctored by Cooke’s Council so as deliberately to conceal selected details from the public. That single document was given up so unwillingly by the Council, that,

  2. it took formal requests under the Freedom of Information Act to prise away even that censored version. We still do not know what are the details of the whole Lease.

  3. does not include other, intimately-connected documents that include the Master Plan and Project Agreement. Cooke fails to mention these, implying that the Lease is everything there is to know about the deal anyway. We the public, have never seen any part of these other important documents, not even censored versions.

  4. Cooke implies that the public has had full access to the Lease all along, and fails to disclose that – thanks to his Council’s most earnest efforts – even the cut-down version was published long after the final date for public comment to the Charity Commission.

Haringey, and its puppet AP trust board, made not a single detail of the Lease public of their own volition. Our Council released a partial version of one of several closely related documents, grudgingly, too late to help the public and under external pressure.

I made a request to the Council on 11 December 2006 under the FoI Act for a copy of the contract with the development company, Firoka. After a 10 day delay and just before Christmas, Haringey asked me for ‘clarification’ of what I sought. The deadline for public comment was in early January. Haringey then wrote that the Lease was subject to commercial confidentiality and I could expect further delay while the lawyers of Haringey/Firoka worked out what they might choose to release into the public domain.

Can it honestly be said that, in the handing over to Firoka of the Borough’s most important building, Haringey has operated in a fair, sincere, open manner?

We simply do not know what details have been withheld from us. Despite the protestation of commercial confidentiality, we cannot be sure about the nature of what is kept secret or even if it is kept secret at the behest of the property developer. The information concealed may be more politically sensitive than commercially sensitive. The public – on whose behalf all of this is being done – cannot tell. Where the excuse of ‘commercial’ confidentially is used in Council contracts, it can easily serve as a smokescreen for mistakes, inefficiency, irregularities and the abuse of power.

It is conceivable that the Council expected that the Lease might be subject to an FoI request. Haringey-Firoka lawyers could have drafted the Lease anticipating that some of it would need to be withheld. For example, one could construct, include (and later withhold) a clause along the lines of ‘notwithstanding the provisions of clauses x, y and z, Firoka shall not be liable for a penny in payment to Haringey in the event of a, b or c.’ Thus, the detail in the Lease that is hidden from the public might be small, but so critical that it puts the whole Lease in a completely different light. A few words omitted might qualify ‘Access’ to mean Restriction, Refurbishment to mean Demolition and ‘Nature Trail’ to ‘Golf Course’. Do Haringey residents have no right to know what is in store for this historic public building?

So the question is: why is the Council so secretive and who is doing the misleading?

letter to local newspapers
23 July 2007