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Future of Ally Pally thrown back in doubt

PUBLISHED: 18:01 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:16 07 September 2010

THE future of Alexandra Palace is back in question after bosses called for more information before re-entering negotiations with a millionaire property tycoon. The charitable trust, which runs the palace, met last week to consider a deal with property dev

THE future of Alexandra Palace is back in question after bosses called for more information before re-entering negotiations with a millionaire property tycoon.

The charitable trust, which runs the palace, met last week to consider a deal with property developer and former Oxford United boss Firoz Kassam, who owns the company Firoka.

But board members concluded that more information on Ally Pally's future prospects must be considered before they could agree on whether the deal could go ahead.

Board chairman and Haringey councillor Matt Cooke said: "Securing a viable future for Ally Pally has always been and remains my top priority.

"The board and I believe that - in order to make an informed decision at this crucial stage on this incredibly important issue - trustees need to have as much information at their fingertips as possible.

"We intend to make a decision as soon as we are able.

"But we will not be rushed into a decision that is not in the best interests of the charity or its beneficiaries.

"I will be reconvening a special meeting of the board once this additional information is in place."

The trust has remained tight-lipped over the the information it is asking for.

This has provoked scepticism from the Save Ally Pally (SAP) campaign over whether the demand for more information will result in anything better for the public.

SAP campaigned vociferously against leasing the historic building to Kassam.

One of its members, Jacob O'Callaghan, brought the original High Court action against leasing the building to Firoka.

The court ruled in October that the deal could not go ahead because consultation with residents about the deal had been "manifestly unfair".

Despite the stalemate over the lease, Firoka staff continued working in the building until January and the company profited from commercial events held there. At the end of the last financial year, the trust had a deficit of £3.1million - compared to £1.23million the previous year.

Yet in January the trust announced it would consider re-entering negotiations with Kassam when it launched a new consultation process.

Mr O'Callaghan said: "There are two key pieces of information which the board desperately needs but their legal advisers do not seem to have thought they should be bothered with.

"One is the Charities Act 2006 and the legal requirement for all charities to demonstrate public benefit as strictly defined by charity law. The other is the legal advice we obtained from a top charity barrister which said that Haringey Council's repeated mantra about "holistic" development is nonsense.

"The whole palace cannot be run entirely for commercial uses.

"The charity was run by Firoka for eight months, which pocketed the whole income leaving Haringey with a black hole of £3.1m - certainly one interpretation of "holistic".

"But in any case, nothing will change until the board admits to itself that a single local authority simply has not coped since 1980 with trusteeship of a building and park owned by and for the people of all London.

"Doing the equivalent of trying to flog it on eBay is not the answer."

A trust spokesman said: "The provisional year end deficit figure in 2007/8 was £3.1m and was in line with the revised deficit requested by the board and adopted by Haringey's cabinet in December 2007.

"This compares with a deficit in the previous financial year of £1.87m. The details of the overall deficit were reported to the board in public at its meeting of July 22. The increased costs stemmed from the delay caused by the judicial review last autumn.

"The costs of the development project and the additional costs incurred in maintaining the building arising from the delays in the completion of the lease.

"In due course the board will consider the audited accounts for the financial year.'

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