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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


• Power-play, poker and permissions at the Palace

I WAS GLAD to see the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, David Lammy, publicly endorse a recent refusal of an application for a betting licence:
The decision by Haringey Council to refuse a licence for yet another betting shop on Green Lanes should be applauded …

… This is something I will support in our community and will fight to keep this on the political agenda in Parliament.
David Lammy MP
Letters, various local papers, 20 November

I hope the MP would agree that there are more than enough betting facilities in Haringey. I further hope that Mr Lammy, as a former Minister of Culture, might oppose another betting licence application in Haringey, this time in our Borough’s most important building, Alexandra Palace.

This latest application might be the thin end of a thick wedge (of cash) that culminates in a few years time in Haringey’s first casino. This current application (just for track betting) is made in the name of ‘Alexandra Palace Trading Limited’ (APTL).

APTL is a secretive company controlled by none other than Haringey Council itself. The sole shareholder of APTL is the AP Trust Board. Both Boards comprise Haringey Councillors and all Councillors on the APTL Board are on the main Trust Board. APTL is therefore absolutely under the control of the Majority Group of the Council.

(What’s the betting that the Haringey Licensing Authority will find in APTL, a most trustworthy applicant of utmost integrity to whom they have no hesitation in awarding a gambling licence?!)

I hope that Mr. Lammy will hold firm to his principles and not be deflected by the fact that, with this new gambling licence application, Haringey Council is in effect, applying to itself for permission (a conflict of interest?).

What might further complicate this matter for the Member of Parliament, is that Haringey would be granting a licence to themselves in order to help out a private business with which they have become enmeshed. The need for APTL to help out their crony, arose because of what appears to be a need to circumvent Section 342 of the Gambling Act (see below) in connection with an earlier application made by the private company. Unofficially, APTL is applying on behalf of Firoka (Alexandra Palace) Ltd. whose original gambling application was turned down because it contained two fascinating claims:

In Firoka’s original application of 9 November 2007, they (a) confirmed that they had the right to occupy the premises and (b) applied for a permanent gambling licence.

There is no doubt that Firoka do occupy the premises and the claim for permanency may not at first sound remarkable.

But on 5 October 2007 – less than five weeks earlier – a Judicial Review had quashed the Order to sell Alexandra Palace to Firoka. Haringey’s behaviour leading up to that sale had been such that the High Court awarded costs against Haringey. The Judge said that the Trustees (i.e. Haringey) were “the authors of their own misfortune”. No one should hold their breath waiting for Haringey to explain that away!

The Chief Executive of Haringey Council, Dr. Ita O’Donovan, recently confirmed that Firoka Management “was given a very short term licence to trade at the Palace” but she has declined to give further details. Firoka’s managers have been handed both the income and management of Alexandra Palace, in exchange for – nothing. At least, nothing that the public knows about.

According to the gambling licence application form “… it is an offence under section 342 of the Gambling Act 2005 to give information which is false or misleading in, or in relation to, this application”. Again, no one should hold their breath waiting for Haringey to take action over the statements of their business partner.

I sincerely hope Mr. Lammy will not turn a blind eye to the continuing irregularities at the Palace. Three things seem certain:

1. Firoka are keen to have a Casino at Alexandra Palace. A casino would be generate much cash and profits for the Firoka company. Last year, Firoka tried to get a Super Casino in Oxford but were frustrated. A casino is clearly shown on Firoka’s architects’ plans for Alexandra Palace.

Firoka are insisting on total control over the entire building with what is euphemistically called a ‘Holistic Lease’. Firoka have repeatedly threatened to walk away from this shady deal unless they get everything they want. Haringey have suggested in the past that he will not be allowed his casino, but Mr. Kassam has a reputation of getting what he wants and he is a past-master at dealing with local authorities of variable competence.

2. Haringey are keen to sell Alexandra Palace to Firoka. Haringey have bent over backwards and forwards to accommodate their favoured partner. They are so keen to give Firoka everything they want, they have agreed to sell AP for a reported figure of only £1.5 million. But if one deducts the sale costs – by 2006, £1.2 million – from the sale proceeds, the Council will have received nothing. But it is worse than that for ratepayers: as part of the deal, the Council will incur new, extra, regular costs which are the annual upkeep of the park and road: now running at £740k/year and rising, costs previously met by the profitable Trust). The lengths to which Haringey are prepared to go to please Firoka, can be gauged by the fact that our local Council has even agreed to the destruction of the world’s first television studios, a potential UN World Heritage site.

3. Most of the deal remains secret. All the sale documents, including the Lease and Master Agreement were deliberately concealed by Haringey from the public during the Consultation. That was heavily criticized by the High Court. Even now, those documents are available only in severely redacted form. But the top-secret Project Agreement has never been available to the public, even in redacted form. The key finding of the High Court, was that Haringey had no business entering into any confidential deals in the first place over the AP sale, which contradicted the promise of a Minister in Parliament. Some of the concerns raised here may be groundless, but unless all sale documents are published un-redacted, we will never know. Haringey’s PR statements and politician-assurances have negligible legal value: only what is contained in the contractual agreements is legally enforceable.

Conclusion: For public consumption, Haringey claims there will not be a Casino at AP. Before the sale of our Charitable Trust’s asset, they will probably repeat this. But how can we know there does not exist a “gentleman’s” agreement or a clause in the secret contract providing for a casino in the future? A couple of years after a sale, and after Firoka threatens to pull out for the umpteenth time, they might then be granted the full gambling facilities they are keen on.

Even with the arrangements over the current APTL application (for permanent track-betting) we see how eager the Council is to help their favoured partner. A private or secret arrangement about the Casino could be the one sweetener that prevents Firoka from walking away.

By turning a blind eye to the occupation of AP by a private company, probably after the expiry of their licence to trade, Haringey thumb their nose at the High Court decision. The whole process relating to this sale shows that Haringey Council believe they are beyond the law.

I hope David Lammy MP might read the evidence and the Judgment from the totemic High Court case, together with further information about the continuing scandal at Ally Pally, all of which is freely available at