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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Why all the secrecy about the agreed Lease?

UNLAWFUL secrecy was the main reason why the High Court quashed the first attempt to sell Alexandra Palace. But why was the secrecy about the Lease so great?

The Trustees remain embarrassed at what was revealed in court about what they were prepared to agree to and probably are still prepared to agree to, in the Lease.

The recent letter by the current trust chairman deliberately avoids relevant clauses in the final Lease agreed between the Council and Firoka.

A difference in weight attaches to promises made, on one hand, by a transitory councillor, to the public in a letter to a newspaper and on the other hand, promises made by the London Borough of Haringey to a property developer in a 125-year Lease, plus Master and Project agreements, all legally binding.

The Trust chair is a continuous supporter of the Lease. On 5 October 2007 he sat in court and watched it quashed. Within days he vowed to run it again.

Office Plan: the secret size:
The figure for the area for commercial offices has not been denied. In the secret Firoka User Clause (No. it is shown as 2,788 square metres, which sounds less than 30,000 square feet. This change-of-use alone might be worth £18 million pounds to Firoka.

The true size of office development was not even hinted at in the Palm Court Display and the sheer scale was one of the biggest secrets in the Lease. Sketchy outline proposals never showed how the huge swathe of offices might spill into the East wing.

Firoka’s architects’ plans showed – in place of the world’s first television studios – the single word ‘office’. There’s a difference between an office and thirty thousand square feet’s worth.

Surprisingly, the chairman holds up the Palm Court Display as a model of consultation. Yet he sat in court the whole day when it was analyzed for its worth as consultation. The Palm Court effort was found so unsatisfactory that it contributed to the High Court defeat (including costs awarded against the Trustees because of their conduct). However, in deciding on the unlawfulness of the overall Consultation, the biggest factor for the Judge was the secrecy of the Lease.

Unsurprisingly, the Trustees do not speak about this court defeat. Full details online at:

The council itself may not be keen on the idea of a casino, so why did they nonetheless agree to a casino in the Lease? The Firoka User clause contains:
    use as a small casino (as referred to in section 7(5)(c) of the Gambling Act 2005).
If, in order to licence a new casino, Council had to apply to the Casino Advisory Panel by the end of March 2006, as claimed, why did Haringey agree to provide for a casino in the Lease by the end of that year? If a casino was mere “talk … back in 2005” as claimed, why did the Council agree to the casino clause in the Lease in 2007?

The secret casino clause is in the contract stalled by court action in October, and it would be in force already, but for the quashing secured by Jacob O’Callaghan.

The chairman claims that “a casino is simply not possible”. Firoka must believe a casino is possible, otherwise they would not have thought it worthwhile to insist on the clause. Since the Council has already approved the casino-clause, it will be harder to refuse a casino licence at a later date; Firoka could lever this clause in court.

Casinos may become popular in the next 125 years and a future lessee could say that the Trustees are behaving unreasonably in withholding permission. The casino Lease clause is the fulcrum on which a future Lessee can force the Trustees to approve the casino already in the Lease.

Will the clause still be in the Lease that the Council still wants to run? Is APTL still applying for a permanent track-betting premises licence on behalf of Firoka? The clause and permission reinforce each other.

World’s first TV studios:
After the 1980 fire, huge public monies were spent on rebuilding. One of the jobs undertaken was to remove asbestos from the studios. How much money was spent on the first removal work and why was that not completed? If Council-approved work was not done fully, how big a task would it be to finish the job?

Buildings are either contaminated or not, but it is claimed that the studios are contaminated “seriously”. Is this a smokescreen or is the councillor prepared to publish the inspection reports? Publishing these reports would be in the spirit of openness and accountability claimed.

Even if there is some contamination, would that be a good enough reason to demolish the world’s first television studios? Is Firoka aware of the magnitude? Thus far, the issue doesn’t seem to be a problem for Firoka, who would replace the studios with an ‘office’.

Asbestos is a mineral. It is not nuclear waste but asbestos dust is hazardous. If it exists, it is a technical issue and manageable. It is far easier to deal with, than the toxic talk of a trustee seeking to demonize an old building material for political purposes.

It took an Act of Parliament to permit a term as long as the 125 years of this Lease. If any lease is sufficiently long, in the marketplace it acquires the characteristics of a Freehold. For practical purposes, a ‘lease’ of this length is as bad as a freehold sale.

A long lease is a negotiable asset and can be used as security and borrowed against. The Lease can also be sold on, which could be how Firoka intend to make their killing. An ultra-prime seven-acre building-site with panoramic views over Europe’s biggest city is worth more than £1.5 million.

Much hot air is spoken about plans for Alexandra Palace. What counts is what is in the enforceable, legally-binding Lease. And that is the document about which the chairman says little.

Abridged version published in Ham & High Broadway
7 February 2007