We’ve been asked a number times if the Trust has considered making a bid for the Town Hall.
The answer is, of course, yes; many times over many years.
As part of the background work for the planning consent granted in 2010, we explored, with the help of two firms of arts and heritage business planners (David Pratley Associates and Bonnar Keenlyside), the viability of a mixed-use scheme for Hornsey Town Hall, i.e. one without a single anchor tenant who would take responsibility for the lease, the restoration and the ongoing maintenance of the Town Hall. Then again we worked with Haringey Council and specialist consultants on an options’ appraisal exercise once the Mountview bid had ended. The assumption, then as now, was that the enabling development (i.e. the sale of flats and houses) sited in the car park to the rear of the Town Hall would fund, in part at least, the restoration of HTH. The question remained, of course, of who was going to have the financial resources not just to take on this multi-million pound project but see it through to completion and beyond.
When the Trust was formed in 2007, our priority was to ensure not just a fully-restored Town Hall but also an improved Town Hall, one that was fit-for-purpose and had a long-term future with guaranteed community and arts use. All specialist estimates state that it will cost around £10million just to get the Town Hall off the Heritage England At Risk register. That’s just basic restoration, not the cost of fitting the Town Hall out so that it can be used to its full potential which will cost substantially more.
Once the Mountview bid halted in early 2015, Haringey Council, after undertaking a detailed options appraisal, decided to formally procure for a developer/operator solution with the aim of securing an organisation that had the financial clout to complete the project whilst committing to arts and community use. The multi-million pound value of the scheme meant that procurement had to be conducted according to OJEU (official journal of the European Union) rules. We lobbied the Council to be part of that confidential procurement on the grounds that we would have more success securing long-term community and arts use and appropriate restoration if we were inside the process rather than excluded from it.
We need to remember that there will be an investment of £27million in the restoration and fitting out of Hornsey Town Hall, that there will be community and arts use of the historic parts of the Town Hall run by a specialist arts operator, cross-subsidy from the hotel operation to sustain community and arts activities, a mechanism for ensuring the voices of the community are heard, and an improved and fully accessible Town Hall Square.
Now is the time to work as hard as we can to make sure that the future of Hornsey Town Hall delivers for the people of Crouch End and Haringey. That’s what the Creative Trust will be doing. You can get involved too by going to http://www.restoringhornseytownhall.com/ and sharing your thoughts and comments.