Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust (HTHCT) trustees went to the Development Management Forum at the Earl Haig Hall on Monday evening, 10 July.   There were clearly many concerns from local residents about the scale and density of the residential development which will no doubt be debated and, hopefully, addressed in the coming weeks.

However, what we felt was missing from the meeting was an explanation of where we find ourselves in terms of the repair, restoration and refurbishment of Hornsey Town Hall.

Haringey Council has been looking for a long-term solution for Hornsey Town Hall for almost two decades.  The Grade II* listed building has been on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk register for 17 years now;  it was first listed as At Risk in 2000.  The condition of Hornsey Town Hall is described as “poor” and subject to “slow decay”.

It is estimated that it will cost at least £10 million to repair Hornsey Town Hall just to a standard that gets it off the At Risk register.    That’s money that Haringey Council simply doesn’t have, even more so in the light of the present cuts to local government.

As we heard on Monday, there’s water ingress in the Assembly Hall, there is no proper disabled access to the building, the brick work is cracking, there’s asbestos in its structure, and the beautiful Council Chamber needs to be restored to its full, former glory.   And there’s a host of other problems with the building.    Beyond that, it needs further investment to turn the historic parts of the building into an arts centre with, crucially, a sustainable future.

That is why the residential units to the rear of the Town Hall are the enabling development that will provide the investment to restore HTH.    This, and the restoration of the Town Hall, was at the heart of the planning consent that was granted in 2010.   FEC’s current plans are at http://www.restoringhornseytownhall.com/resources

At last night’s meeting, people also questioned both the community’s desire for and business case for a hotel in the building.    One gentleman referred to a consultation that showed a tiny percentage of people were in favour of a hotel.   That consultation was undertaken by HTHCT in May 2015 and appended to the report that went to Cabinet later that year.   Three hundred and thirty two people responded; the first question was:

What is your aspiration for community use and access at Hornsey Town Hall?

Please tell us overall how you imagine being able to use and access the town hall in the future?

The overwhelming percentage of people, 27.68%, wanted arts and creative uses in HTH with a further 22.64% wanting community facilities.   This was closely followed by educational opportunities and business space.   Yes, very few wanted HTH to be used solely as a hotel but what is clear from all the financial planning that has been undertaken over the years is that a financial driver – an anchor tenant – is needed to secure the future of this historic building, alongside arts and community use.    That financial driver is the hotel sited in the less historic parts of the building.   And arts and community use is what FEC, in partnership with a still-to-be-appointed arts operator, is obliged to deliver as part of the development agreement signed with Haringey Council.   You can read the whole report here 150608_hth_community_use_and_access_paper2.

Underpinning this is the Community Use Agreement (CUA) Hornsey_Town_Hall_Community_Use_Agreement_2017 which guarantees a minimum of 60% of community and arts use throughout the year, which will be overseen and safeguarded by a Steering Group comprising ward councillors, the arts operator, a representative from FEC, a representative from HTHCT, and members of community groups.  This Steering Group, which will meet quarterly, will be formed six months before the doors of HTH open again.  Many people have commented that the CUA is too broad but it is, at this stage of the project, a legally-binding document that sets out the core principles under which both FEC and the arts operator will work.  To make the arts and community centre viable, there has to be the right mix of arts, community and commercial uses, just as there is in ANA’s (Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre) current model.

Finally, many people have questioned the need for a hotel in Crouch End since the news was announced last September.   First, the hotel rooms, as was explained last night, will be in the basement and at the rear (mostly sited in the spaces that were designated residential spaces in the 2010 planning consent) of the Town Hall.   Second, we asked FEC why they thought a hotel would work in Crouch End; they expect 60% of their bookings will come from short stays; 40% will comprise people who work in London during the week and need somewhere to stay, and who will return home at the weekend.

We hope that local people,  in responding to the planning application which is due to be submitted later this month, will bear in mind the community’s overwhelming wish to see Hornsey Town Hall fully repaired and restored.   There is still much work to be done on the proposals and FEC needs to respond properly and openly to community concerns about the enabling development and other issues raised at the Development Management Forum.

We will be submitting our own formal response to the planning application in our role as the HTH buildings preservation trust once those plans are published.