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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Firoka to sue Alexandra Palace Trust Board

Firoka to sue Alexandra Palace Trust Board, or
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

I SEE Haringey Council's "preferred development partner" for Alexandra Palace (Firoka) is now to sue the AP Trust/Haringey over the failed sale. The Trust is controlled by Haringey and the claim on our Charity's funds is in effect, a claim on taxpayer cash.

Firoka's claim is probably without merit. We are of course unaware of any still-secret side agreements, such as possible indemnities over the sale falling through, given by Haringey Council to Firoka. That would be a disaster for our Charity. Regardless, we must all hope that the council will resist this vigorously, in court if necessary and preferably with a counter-suit.

From the outset, both parties (Council and Firoka) were aware, or should have been aware, that if the sale of Alexandra Palace to Firoka was to 'succeed', then two conditions had to be met:

  1. A public Consultation by the Charity Commission (before an Order to sell) that was fair and unflawed; and then that
  2. A Judicial Review (within three months of the Order) did not happen, or if it did happen, that it did not succeed in quashing the Lease.

Each of these points was surely well understood by both sets of richly-rewarded legal advisors to the two development partners, Haringey & Firoka. But neither of these events transpired. Both development partners knowingly took the risk of ignoring these factors and just hoped the deal would go through. Both parties acted unwisely.

The two partners knew, or should have known, of the promise of full, open public consultation about any sale by a Government Minister. The promise was made in a debate in Parliament about AP, specifically to assuage concerns raised about the proposed sale. But Haringey is a law unto itself.

Both partners were aware that their shady deal was against the public interest; both partners were keen to minimize public scrutiny of the Lease and both partners were keen on maximum secrecy. Even if that secrecy led to actions by the Charity Commission, that was later ruled in the High Court, to be unlawful (The Judge awarded costs against Haringey because of their conduct).

Both parties are responsible for the fact the Lease was quashed by a Judge but Firoka alone is responsible for not reviving the sale, because they resisted seven months of pleading by Haringey to resume talks.

As a member of the public, I politely asked Haringey for a copy of the Lease in good time in early December 2006. The belated response from Haringey's politicized Legal Services Department comprised excuses, prevarication and dissembling: and no Lease.

The Lease to Firoka was cynically withheld from the public until the Charity Commission Consultation ended on 5 January 2007 (a point noted by the Judge). A severely redacted version was later released by the deeply wretched Legal Services Department of the council.

An almost complete Lease (without financial data) came one year later, but only after the Information Commissioner directed Haringey to release. The Commissioner agreed that Haringey's excuses "were not engaged" (i.e. were wrong).

Firoka were complicit with the Trust Board in the risk-taking of keeping the Lease secret during the Charity Commission's Consultation. We have Mr. Kassam's own Witness Statement to the High Court as evidence for his keenness on "commercial confidentiality" or in layman's terms, secrecy.

[NB relevant extracts from Kassam's Witness Statement at the bottom.
This is in the public domain]

Mr. Kassam was not relying solely on "suggestion" from the Trust about the risks of openness, as he disingenuously asserts in his Witness Statement: he has his own legal advisors to tell him what might be involved in a Statutory Consultation over the sale of a major public asset and of the possibility of a Judicial Review.

This is another sorry chapter in the saga of our Haringey-controlled Charitable Trust. The poor judgement will go on until low-quality governance by local councillors is replaced with an independent Board. The current Board is populated mainly by placemen-councillors, some of whom are of no more than average ability.

This Board, which does not start by overflowing with talent, has long been the victim of poor legal advice. That the Trust Board pretended that predictable legal requisites would not happen is their own folly, aided and abetted by the long-time AP Trust Solicitor. The same Trust Solicitor who guided the Trust through the botched sale, is to try to resist Firoka's law suit.

If a lawyer is at least as concerned about protecting his own record as he is of his client, can he be expected to give the best possible advice? Is now not just the right time that the Board had the benefit of fresh, independent and competent legal advice?

The Lease negotiated by Haringey with Firoka overwhelmingly served the interests of the latter and from this, Kassam will know that Haringey is both feeble and has indifferent legal advice.

The wily chancer Kassam will be aware of Haringey's aversion to embarrassment, accountability and responsibility. He will literally be Banking on the council's reluctance to fight his absurd claim in open public court.


The relevant parts of Mr. Kassam's Witness Statement to the High Court:

(3) ... For the avoidance of any doubt I (and my fellow Directors) fully support all the efforts made by the Charity Commission and the Trustees of Alexandra Park and Palace ("the Trustees") in these proceedings.

(7) ... If, during these negotiations, the Trustees had suggested to me that, as part of the consultation process which the Charity Commission had agreed to undertake prior to granting the required Order, the lease (and perhaps the other associated documents) would need to be disclosed in full for public scrutiny, I would have been extremely uncomfortable and would have seriously considered walking away from the project at that stage".

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