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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Open letter from Jacob O'Callaghan

"To the Mayor and all Councillors, London Borough of Haringey as Trustee of Alexandra Palace

Dear Mr Mayor and Councillors,


YOU know from previous letters to you all that I challenged the financial information on which the application to the Charity Commission was made for the "holistic" disposal of the whole Palace. I then successfully applied for Judicial Review of the Commission's Order authorizing the lease, on the obvious grounds of insufficient information given to objectors. The Alexandra Palace, a building of national and international importance, is governed by Acts and Orders of Parliament.

IN COURT the judge placed heavy emphasis on the undertaking of Fiona Mactaggart MP to Parliament in proposing the 2004 APP Order that there would be sufficient public consultation about any proposed lease. He was astonished that the Commission, and the Trustees, appeared to have ignored this solemn promise to Parliament.

OF COURSE, what Ms Mactaggart had also solemnly promised Parliament during the debate in answer to concerns raised by MPs, and the Commission and Trustees and their advisers had equally overlooked, was that any proposed lease would not be allowed simply to be a commercial one.

I AM sending to you with this letter a copy of a legal Opinion I have obtained on behalf of the Save Ally Pally Campaign from Francesca Quint, a well- respected charity law barrister who has been legal adviser to the Charity Commission, about the extent of the legal powers and restrictions of the Mayor and Burgesses of Haringey regarding leasing the Alexandra Palace, This has already been sent to the Charity Commission and the Attorney General via the Treasury Solicitor. Our solicitor sent it to Howard Kennedy, solicitors to the Board, so that it be brought to the attention of the trustees as well. I am re-sending it now to members for ease of reference in time for Tuesday's Board meeting.

WHAT this Opinion now confirms is that the 2004 APP Order does not allow the grant of a long lease of the Palace simply to earn a financial return. The User Clause of any lease granted by the trustees must continue to safeguard the continued free use of the Palace for recreational - that is, charitable recreational and educational - purposes. ("Recreational" has, in a charity context, a more restrictive meaning than its common use.)

WE are advised, and we feel it would be in the interests of all parties and helpful to pass on this advice to the charity trustees, that the scope of consultation by the Commission about any new application for an Order authorizing any lease would have to take account of the principles in Mrs Quint's analysis, if that consultation is not to be again challengeable by judicial review.

WE have now had sight after various FoI applications of most of the putative Master Agreement, the Lease and the Project/Building Agreement. So we are, additionally, quite confident on the basis of this Opinion that these agreements would have in any event not survived a separate challenge in the Chancery Division under charity law should the JR not have succeeded, as will any similar new agreement most if not all of whose terms, of course, will now have to be disclosed to the beneficiaries of the charity in connection with any new consultation.

WE believe that the trustees must require of those negotiating for Haringey that the basis of any negotiations must be that any new agreement must be fundamentally different from the former one, in the light of this Opinion and the continuing public concern and opposition to what has been disclosed including ensuring public access to and preservation of the historic TV studios, to CUFOS and to other areas, by a requirement to sub-lease them at a peppercorn or no rent to charitable or not-for-profit bodies, which the trustees have powers to do, and ensuring preservation of the Willis organ.

HOWEVER Keith Holder, who has been conducting the negotiations with Iain Harris, has told the recent meeting of the Statutory Advisory Committee that he thought that there would be no fundamental change in the terms; in which case the trustees should direct that no further time nor money is wasted on pointless further talks with Firoka.

IT IS irrelevant, though ironic, that while I and the Save Ally Pally campaign were imaginatively accused by an anonymous poison pen letter of somehow being both a front for the Liberal Democrat party and at the same time in the pay of the unsuccessful bidder for the lease, the company which a Labour council were proposing to make an agreement with, Firoka Limited, contributed (as is its right) £10,000 to Mr David Cameron's election as Leader of his party, and another £8,000-odd to the Conservative Party itself, as recorded on the Electoral Commission's current register on their web site. In fact our campaign has members of all three main parties, and none.

HOWEVER, since the Palace is an educational charitable trust and you also must undertake due diligence, please do carefully reconsider a 125 year lease to a developer
  • whose principal was described in an Evening Standard article as going "From slum landlord to Mr Ally Pally" (2 February 2006, and see entry on Mr Kassam in Wikipedia);
  • whose dealings with Oxford City Council regarding Oxford United's ground, and what they have ended up with, are now publicly bitterly regretted by that Council (not to mention Oxford United fans) and apparently the subject of challenge by Oxford's District Auditor for not providing best value (see for instance
and subsequent articles);
  • who proposed gambling casinos, which are known to attract crime, as suitable uses both at Oxford and in the Palace, an educational charity much used by children;
  • who apparently demanded, and got, a late change in the Master Agreement so that it could claim completion of the lease while the Order was yet subject to Judicial Review;
  • who then threatens you with possible court action;
  • who occupied the Palace for eight months, under yet another secret arrangement, at the charity's expense, during which time we and local press were sent accounts of allegedly terrible staff relations, and
  • who it seems pocketed, under this agreement, perhaps over a million pounds of profits which should have gone to the charity, thus necessitating a huge subvention from council funds; and
whether some of this surely merits just a few second thoughts about what Haringey and London may be saddled with for 125 years.

Perhaps Board and Council members should also give some thought to who was responsible we do not really know for advising them and protecting their and the charity's interests, regarding all this.

Surely there are better alternatives to that. Save Ally Pally is saying that there is an alternative. We have, of course, no connection whatever as a group with any unsuccessful tenderer: we simply believe that another option is viable and preferable and in the best interests of the charity. Some of our members are helping to prepare a formal submission to you and the Commission, because the presence of viable and preferable alternatives to alienation of the main asset must weigh on the Commission in reviewing any renewed application by the trustee for an Order.

I am writing personally to you because firstly, I really do not want the charity or the council to clock up any more bills than necessary for legal correspondence; and secondly because we should surely be all on the same side as residents of Haringey, in wanting the best deal for both the people of London as beneficiaries, and the council taxpayers of Haringey, in ensuring the future of this landmark, world-famous building and its park.

We would rather we did that in partnership than at loggerheads, and the energy and passion of our campaign was applied constructively in finding permanent solutions ensuring the Pally's future rather than years of legal battles with the trustees. The choice now lies with yourselves.

Best wishes

Jacob O'Callaghan

cc Lynne Featherstone MP, David Lammy MP, Howard Kennedy, Solicitors to the Trustee