Public outcry after final plans for Hornsey Town Hall unveiled
- Credit: Archant
The final plan for a town hall’s redevelopment has been met by a public outcry.
Up to 80 people packed into Earl Haig Hall on Monday to listen to lead architect Katy Ghahremani explain how the key to Hornsey Town Hall’s redevelopment is to pursue “sustainable uses” including developing the venue as an arts centre and hotel.
Two apartment blocks providing 144 homes are also proposed for the back of the site, three storeys high at either end rising to seven storeys in the centre and with 40 additional parking spaces.
Within minutes of the plans being shared an audience member said: “There will be 400 people living at the back of the house I bought with hard earned money. It’s a monstrosity.”
The audience challenged the architects further saying the hotel was “far from the spirit of the building”.
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“The building is being turned into a hotel to make money and that’s a problem,” an audience member said before Ms Ghahremani gave an assurance an agreement had already secured community use.
Asked why a hotel had been included in the designs when there was a lack of transport links in the area, the developer’s planning consultant John Ferguson said hotel uses are supported by Crouch End’s designation as a district centre.
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And more questions were raised about how many high-skilled jobs the hotel would generate given that 200 craftspeople now base their businesses in the Town Hall.
“We can take those questions back,” the lead architect said.
On the level of affordable housing Ms Ghahremani said developers were looking at “optimising” the number of homes, set at four under a previous planning agreement.
In response an audience member was cheered after saying: “We don’t want Crouch End to become some socially cleansed place for your profit. It needs to be a diverse area. Saying you don’t care about afforable housing is a really big problem.”
The developers were also warned the apartment blocks’ footprint was too large.
“We love the town hall, but it shouldn’t be hemmed in by apartment blocks. A civic town hall should have breathing space. This [plan] is absolutely over-developed,” an audience member said.
The developers came under fire even further over the timing of the meeting with the developer, Far East Consortium (FEC), due to submit its planning application at the end of July.
“The affordable housing is vague. Some of the commuity use is vague. I wonder why we’re doing this now when so much of this is vague,” the architects were told.
The audience then took aim at Haringey’s Dean Hermitage accusing council planners of only advising developers on the project before insisting the council meet with them too.
At the end of the two hour meeting in the Earl Haig Hall, representatives of the council and architects agreed the feeling from the room was largely negative.
Speaking after the meeting John Connolly, head of UK development at FEC Ltd, said: “Hornsey Town Hall is on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.
“We are committed to investing around £27 million directly into restoring, refurbishing and enhancing the Town hall and the public realm. This will allow it to be fully re-opened safely and securely, to create a focal point at the heart of Crouch End for the community.
“To date, we’ve met with a range of local stakeholder groups, including those focused on heritage, and welcomed over 530 people to drop-in sessions in May to view our initial proposals.
“As a direct result of feedback gathered during the consultation period, we have made significant changes to our proposals including reducing the height of the proposed residential blocks.
“Block A now steps up from three storeys on the Haringey Park end and four storeys on the Weston Park end to seven storeys in the middle, concentrating the massing at the middle of the site.
“We have reduced the height of Block B by one storey - now at six storeys above ground with a lower ground floor.
“Following community feedback, we’ve chosen a heritage design for the renovation of the Town Hall Square which includes retaining existing trees and the fountain and preserving the same level of green space as present and proposed a new publicly accessible space called Town Hall Gardens. “This summer we will announce the appointment of an arts and community operator who will work with the community to put together a programme of uses and events which will ensure the Town Hall is vibrant in the day and evening.
“We also continue to work closely with Haringey Council to optimise the affordable units provision from the previous consented scheme. This will be subject to a viability assessment that Haringey Council will independently assess.”