April, 2012

Alexandra Park and Palace are owned and run by a charity, The Alexandra Park and Palace Trust, and the Trustees are the Haringey Councillors.

The Trust has a commercial arm, Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd, which organises the exhibitions, music events and other income generating activities in the Palace and Park. It gifts its profits to the Trust. Nevertheless Haringey Council has to provide around £2 million each year to cover the Trust’s costs.

The Trustees have set up a Regeneration Working Group with members from the Trust and the Council. Its aim is to develop a plan for the Trust to move gradually to a position where it no longer relies on the Council for financial support, and can finance the repair and improvement of the Palace.

The Trust has appointed specialist consultants to support this work. Colliers International analysed what sort of activities at the Palace would make it a well-known and desirable destination for visitors. Their proposal, agreed by the Trust, was that Leisure and Entertainment should be the theme, with live music as the core activity. A commercial operator will be selected later this year to run the music activity.

However, live music will not be the only activity in the Palace. For example the Ice Rink is successful and will continue to operate. The Heritage of the Palace is not being forgotten. A firm of specialist conservation architects, Donald Insall Associates, are preparing a Conservation Management Plan which records the significance and condition of the various heritage aspects of the whole Palace and is not only recommending how these should be conserved but also how they might be brought into use. The BBC studios and the theatre are of particular interest.

The architects Terry Farrrell and Partners are beginning to draw up a Spatial Masterplan which will propose how the various parts of the Palace will be used, bearing in mind the conservation and heritage issues, as well as the opportunities to generate additional income. The feasibility of a hotel within the Palace, which has often been suggested, will no doubt be given careful consideration.

Any improvements to the Palace will need a significant capital investment, and the Trust is investigating the possibility of borrowing from financial institutions or ‘prudential borrowing’ via Haringey Council.

Starting on May 18th, 2012, there will be a major public consultation on the proposed Spatial Masterplan. The Trust management is very conscious of the history of previous inadequate consultations and the Trust’s chief executive, Duncan Wilson, is very keen that this one will be open and thorough.

Preview of the Spatial Masterplan

As part of this openness, Duncan Wilson arranged for the Farrells staff working on this project to give a preview of their work to date on the Spatial Masterplan to an informal meeting of the AP&P Consultative and Statutory Advisory committees. These committees contain representatives of residents groups and other groups with particular interests in the Park and/or Palace.

The issues Farrells are working on include

How to counter the perception that Alexandra Palace is difficult to get to

How to arrange access to the Palace at points other than the two ends

How to link up the two ends of the Palace, internal

Whether to re-introduce rows of columns along either side of the Great Hall to support galleries

Whether the basement level on the south side of the Palace can be opened up on to a terrace (unfortunately at present it would open on to the road)

Calming of the road particularly in front of the Palace

Improvements to the immediate surrounds of the Palace (eg moving the car park away from the Ice Rink end of the Palace).

The aim is to work towards:

Opening up the BBC studios to public access as a TV museum

Bringing the theatre back into use (possibly linked to a theatre school, and/or corporate learning facility)

Community facilities (meeting rooms, library?)

Sports studios and sport related shops

A hotel on the area currently occupied by the Panorama Room

Better food and drink provision

For the Alexandra Park, the main issue is always the threat of car park expansion, if the Palace is to attract more people. Farrells say that they are working on the basis of no net increase in car park spaces, but that would have to be confirmed as plans for use of the Palace are firmed up.

The other concern is that Farrells had looked at the possibility of diverting the road through the Park to the lower road, or behind the Palace. Both have such obvious drawbacks that Farrells said several times that they did not think that these options were viable.

All the above, and more detail, should be presented at the public consultation starting on May18th. After that Farrells will be developing the briefs for potential operators of the various parts of the Palace.

Gordon Hutchinson

Chair, Friends of Alexandra Park