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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Consultation on Ally Pally's future: a Casino back on the agenda?

THE council-controlled Alexandra Palace trading company is currently holding a consultation about the future of the building with the owners of the building.

In law, the owners of Alexandra Palace are the beneficiaries of the Charitable Trust, i.e. the public of north London (this has normally been an inconvenient truth for the council). I would encourage members of the public to participate in the current consultation, which is an opportunity to influence the future.

Among the options being considered are: a hotel, sport, tertiary education and prestigious tenants. Other uses also being looked at are flats, commercial office space and a casino (the quashed Lease to Firoka also promised casino use).

The most prominent casino-lobbyist in the council is Cllr H. Lister, who had vowed to make the council return to the AP casino proposal when on 21 March 2006, the Cabinet Executive voted against starting the casino process. In April last year, Cllr. Lister chaired and dominated the Full Licensing Committee Hearing that awarded the council's trading company a permanent gambling Premises Licence at Alexandra Palace. The council denied that would set a precedent for a casino.

Renewed consideration of a casino is surprising in view of the previous AP Trust chairman's statement last year:

"I want to put this on the record. There is not going to be and can be no casino at Alexandra Palace. It is true there was talk of a casino back in 2005 but to license a new casino under the Gambling Act of 2005, Haringey Council would have had to apply to the Casino Advisory Panel by the end of March 2006. Haringey chose not to, and so a casino is simply not possible. Full stop. Because casinos are controversial, some people have been using that particular red herring to spread intrigue and concern, but that wilful misleading has to stop – there is simply not going to be one."

(Cllr. Matt Cooke, letter to H&H Broadway, 31/01/08)

Some were reassured by the Chairman's unequivocal promise. But regardless of one's views about casinos, this categorical statement illustrates one abiding truth about the governance of the Trust: the lack of continuity. Any long-term promise or commitment by one politician-chairman is subject to voiding by the next politician-chairman.

The vicious-circle of political-control and lack-of-continuity can only be ended by the introduction of independent trustees who are, committed, competent, interested and who might last more than five minutes.

It is unsurprising that few of the current Trustees are able to pay much attention. Regardless of their re-election prospects, their first duty is to their Ward- and Council-work. Some Trustees are on the Board for just a few months and there is normally wholesale change every 12 months (in May).

The chronic instability of governance has partly been compensated for – by default – by permanent officers and municipal managers. This has led to the endurance of cosy and unhealthy relationships and not least in the legal framework within which the Trust operates.

The 15-year old municipal "development strategy" (i.e. flog-to-a-developer), led to directly to decay and dereliction of duty. Few repairs but massive fees for lawyers, PR and consultants. Can the council confirm that the policy of "holistic" sale of Alexandra Palace as a "developer shell" has now been abandoned?

I credit the current chairman with making an attempt to break this mould. Haringey should have learned that one of the principles in law of an effective consultation, is that it needs to be made at the early, formative stages of proposals. There is likely to be dissatisfaction if this turns out not to have been the case.

As to what should happen at Ally Pally, it is certain that the views of no single individual will prevail. The council has the difficult job of trying to synthesise views and come up with a consensus. They should be given that opportunity.

Ideas and comments should go to Amanda Sears at Ally Pally, who is happy to receive them:

Amanda Sears

020-8365 4366


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