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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


• A Civic Centre Casino – regeneration benefits?

HARINGEY Council intends shifting the Civic Centre up the road to Woodside House. Which leaves the big question of what to do with the old Civic Centre in Wood Green High Road?

This unlovely, uncared-for building needs re-development. Our Council Leader describes the current Civic Centre as “increasingly unfit for current requirements and inefficient, with an escalating maintenance bill.” As for future use, Cllr. Meehan said: “And we can deliver further regeneration benefits by releasing the existing civic centre site for an appropriate development.”

Has the Council considered converting the Civic Centre into a casino? Some councillors argued the case for a casino at Alexandra Palace in 2006, but were thwarted, at least temporarily.

The Council Chamber (renamed Casino Mayorale), would be a grand setting for roulette tables. The game with the highest stakes could be sited under the Mayoral dias, with one-arm bandits located where backbench councillors now sit. The long committee-room wing could house a large number of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), known colloquially as the crack-cocaine of gambling.

Necessary modifications would include: removal of any clocks; blacking out of windows, plentiful cheap food available on site and lots of lavatories. The big car park at the rear would encourage punters to come from beyond Haringey, enabling our Council to tax the residents of neighbouring Boroughs! Punters could be dropped off at the front porch by taxis and chauffeurs, just like the side entrance of the Ritz casino.

According to the Council report of 2006 Casino proposal at Alexandra Palace, a “Small Casino” would be permitted to have up to 80 category B gaming machines with a maximum jackpot of £4,000. But the volume of the Civic Centre would surely be sufficient to house a Large or Regional facility? The report argued strongly for the regeneration benefits of a casino at Alexandra Palace, saying that the impact of a casino at Alexandra Palace “would be of particular benefit to black and minority ethnic communities and socially excluded neighbourhoods,” so what is the Council waiting for? It surely follows that the larger the gambling premises, the greater the regeneration benefit?

The profits to the Council—and possibly to some Councillor supporters—would be huge and would take pressure off CPZ’s and parking fines as a means of lifting Council income (the social and family cost of such a facility is harder to quantify).

There would be no difficulty in obtaining a licence. The Council would apply to itself for a gambling premises licence just as it did with Alexandra Palace (the charitable trust it controls). Any licensing committee Hearing could be arranged to be chaired by one of the councillor casino-advocates, who might then finally get the full casino they want. We can find a precedent for that in the permission the Council gave itself in April for the off-track betting premises licence at Alexandra Palace.

Fortunately, gambling is not linked to crime. (Or at least, that’s what we were told by a solicitor acting for the licence Applicant at that Hearing, the Council-controlled company Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd.).

A Civic Centre Casino would be a fitting use for premises that have seen such gaming in the past and such gambling with the future of the Borough.