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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


• Who would be a ‘preferred partner’ of Haringey Council?

Short version (Journal)Medium length (Independent) – Maximum: below

UNSUCCESSFUL bidders for Alexandra Palace would have been disappointed 18 months ago, at missing out on the opportunity of becoming Haringey’s ‘preferred development partner’. Now they may know how lucky they were.

The tender process, stacked in favour of one company (Firoka), was conducted by one of the least competent Boroughs in London and the lucky winner must now be wondering what they did to deserve their fate.

In the first instance, Firoka were probably mislead by the local Council about the legal status of the Palace and what exactly would be entailed in a purchase of the principal asset of a Charitable Trust. Let alone a huge Trust asset of international historical importance, about which the public happens to care.

Firoka was certainly mislead by the Council about the need for a public consultation. Maybe the Council didn’t understand that they needed to abide by the promise of a government minister over that consultation. Haringey’s legal team seems to have overlooked this – but it is hard to believe they never knew about the debate in Parliament over Alexandra Palace.

The preferred partner entered into secret agreements with Haringey but we don’t know which side wanted secrecy more. Regardless, Haringey had no business entering into any such secret agreement and this aspect was judged in the High Court to be unlawful. Any future tenderers now know there can be no more secrecy if Haringey continue to try to flog the Palace.

The level of deceit engaged in by the Council may not have surprised Firoka, but it surprised even hardened Haringey-observers. However, all the secrecy, dissembling and misleading (second nature to LBH) was not in the interests of the preferred partner, because it would come up against the law of the land.

The Council never really understood the implications of being responsible for a Charitable Trust. From the beginning (1980), their involvement has been more or less continuous mismanagement. The Council has tried to treat our Trust and our building as simply an extension of Council property management, with all that that implies.

But AP is not a municipal building. The Council cannot treat it as just a ‘disposal’ as for any other council-owned facility and flog it with gay abandon. The very fact that they needed to obtain an Act of Parliament to allow for a 125 year lease ought to have told them something. It seems Haringey just grabbed the lease extension-ability they wanted and in typical Cavalier Haringey style, simply ignored anything else that came with it, like the promise of a Minister for a full open public consultation.

Haringey Council put great pressure on the Charity Commission to limit consultation and information to the public. The council then proceeded to ignore all (324) representations by a concerned public in the matter. This was their undoing. In the High Court of Justice.

The ‘preferred partner’ then found himself listed as an Interested Party on the wrong end of a Judicial Review. Wisely, Firoka avoided legal representation and avoided the costs that the Trustees (i.e. Haringey) found themselves lumbered with.

The preferred partner - nine weeks after the High Court decision - was served with a notice of eviction from Alexandra Palace by their development partner (the Trustees). If this is what ‘preferred’ partnership with Haringey means, Firoka must have wondered what it feels like to be a ‘partner’ of Haringey who is out of favour.

The preferred partner was strung along by Haringey and messed around by the usual amateur slip-shod LBH approach. The Trustees (and ratepayers) will do well to avoid a claim for damages, over their behaviour, from their development partner. The Council’s position is understood to be, that it was known all along by all parties that the deal was contingent on a public consultation: that contention is doubtless receiving careful examination.

The preferred partner, during the purchase process was in the hands of Haringey and relied on the Council to guide them through the statutory and regulatory maze to a successful conclusion. That journey ended on 5 October 2007 in Room 28 of the Royal Courts of Justice in front of Judge Sullivan.

Haringey, in typical Cavalier style, has learnt nothing from this and there has been no apology to the public for the wasting of millions of pounds in sale costs and lost revenue (the lack of maintenance and the wasted opportunities are too big to describe here).

The unsuccessful tenderers must now be thanking their lucky stars that they never became preferred development partners of Haringey. All of this sorry tale must serve as a lesson to any re-bidders or new bidders for Alexandra Palace who might be contemplating doing business with Haringey. At first glance, it appears that there are vast profits to be made by exploiting the desperation and stupidity of London’s Least Competent. But it’s not worth it!

Haringey bungling is so potent, that it has now defeated one of the hardest, shrewdest, most ruthless operators in the business. This mess will not have been lost on other potential bidders, who might have lost patience with the Council much earlier.

Other possible bidders will have taken note of both the final outcome and the extent of waste of money and management time that Haringey caused to the successful bidder and ‘preferred partner’. Haringey referred in court to ‘Alexandra Palace fatigue’ (amongst potential other bidders). More accurately, it is ‘Haringey Council fatigue’. The lesson is clear:

You can’t run rings round the Keystone Cop Council. If you are interested in developing AP, do not deal with Haringey Council. You will be burnt. If you’d like to help develop AP, only deal with a new independent Trust comprised of people of long-term interest, expertise and integrity.

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