Hornsey Town Hall back in planning, variations and amendments

The Hornsey Town Hall developers have, after a tad of a delay, submitted one or two revisions to their project to the Planning Dept. The Forum had a look, and, after a few people contacted us, made some comments. Our notes are below.

Mostly the doubts are around the planned uses and functions of the arts spaces, but hopefully bright new plans have been hatched after the arts consultation and will emerge to win us over during the next couple of years. No one wants a white elephant. Meanwhile the slow march through the pre-development period may be coming to a close, as we understand FEC are currently appointing contractors. We’ll post as and when details of the construction period are released. Our last update on the development is here.

The consultation period for the applications is about to close, so if you have comments don’t be slow.

All drawings are (c) 2017-19 MAKE Architects. For full versions please visit the Haringey planning portal.

Overview of proposed uses – ground floor


A longer read.

Planning Application comments from Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum

App.: Hornsey Town Hall, The Broadway, Crouch End N8 9JJ
Application HGY/2019/0288 for non-material amendment
Application HGY/2019/0301 to vary Listed Building Consent
Application HGY/2019/0302 to vary Listed Building Consent

Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum (CENF) welcomes the applications to amend and vary the Hornsey Town Hall development, and notes the earlier approval of the scheme (under HGY/2017/2220 and related listed building consents). Our comments can be taken as neutral, but it should be noted that members of the Forum continue to have significant doubts about the sustainability of the new uses proposed for the Town Hall.

We particularly welcome the fact that the developers have kept the Forum updated on changes to the scheme, and we also appreciate the recent consultation on uses of the Town Hall held by the arts operator. However, it should be emphasised that this application represents the first occasion where the public are able to examine drawings and new design decisions in detail. That it appears to have taken well over a year for these design revisions to be made available is disappointing.

We do not propose to object to the description of changes as ‘non-material’, though given the importance of the scheme might it have been possible for the LPA in consultation with the applicant to have presented a fuller period for public consultation and determination? If that required an application under section 73, perhaps it should have been presented as such. We believe that determination of the applications should be at Planning Committee level.

Also, as this is a Grade II* listed building it would seem appropriate for comments made on the revisions, whether by Historic England, Haringey’s Conservation Officer or other design review panel, to be made public. The reference by the applicant to “meetings have been held” is not sufficient. These comments could be added to the documentation list under the /0301 application.

Context

The restoration of Hornsey Town Hall is a much anticipated project of huge importance to Crouch End. A Grade II* heritage asset, the Town Hall is the prime civic, social and community asset for the area, it offers opportunities to improve the local economy, to transform local cultural life, and provide employment and flexible work spaces. The Town Hall Square is the only open space in central Crouch End. In the current project the listed buildings are set to become a mixed development comprising a 68 room hotel, restaurants and bars, an arts venue, and workspaces. There will be conversion to residential use of the upper floors of the Annexe. Further extensive development of residential blocks will take place within the curtilage of the heritage assets.

The success of the overall venture relies heavily on the delivery of a high quality restoration and the subsequent promotion of Hornsey Town Hall as a prestige heritage attraction.

Civic halls section

Policy

CENF fully supports the principle of adaptation of heritage assets to sustainable and profitable new roles when significance is retained and enhanced and any harmful re-modelling is kept to a minimum. At the Town Hall we note that each of the proposed new uses within the mixed development necessitate internal and external changes to the fabric of the building. Much of this already has consent, and the most radical changes are confined to the least historically significant sections of the Town Hall. However, a number of newly proposed changes, contained in this submission, directly impact spaces of very high heritage importance.

We note the statement from Historic England on the original application (representation to Planning Sub-Committee, July 2017):
   “It is our view that your proposed uses for the Town Hall provide a good fit for the building and are unlikely to be contentious in heritage terms, provided that it can be shown that these uses are able to secure the repair and long term future and maintenance of the building.”

The applications should be judged against relevant policy. This includes conforming to Chapter 16 paragraphs 193-196 of the NPPF (2018), which set out the consideration of potential impacts on a designated asset, and the Planning (Listed buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, which identifies Council obligations to safeguard listed buildings.

In addition, Haringey’s Local Plan policies SP12 and DM9 seek to ensure the conservation of historic significance of local heritage assets, actions further defined by Chapter 7, policy HC1 of the emerging London Plan.

Comments

CENF would like to make the following comments on the proposed changes to the scheme. Our observations are driven by a requirement on the applicant to demonstrate that the proposed uses of the Town Hall are coherent and justify changes to the listed structure and fabric.

We would like to thank members of the local community who have approached CENF with their thoughts and concerns. This includes those who have a long term interest in the conservation of the building, those involved with local events and markets, those currently working in the building, and others with interests in using the Town Hall from musicians to designers to exhibitors.

1. Use & function of arts spaces

Generally, as with previous applications, the use and function of the heritage spaces is not wholly clear. We believe that public appreciation of the project would be improved with greater clarity about the planned use of arts spaces, both in terms of opportunities and constraints. For example, as shown in the drawings the Arts Centre appears limited to performance and cinema use, with no obvious space for the visual arts. If it is simply a venue with office spaces (and there’s nothing wrong in that, that’s its original role), perhaps it should be described as such.

Further outlines of function would be helpful in assessing whether issues of access, movement, security, soundproofing and provision are properly considered. For example, is the inclusion of a grand piano in the Committee Rooms (F46) meant to convey a particular use? Will it be soundproofed or open to passing public? And, if the Committee Rooms are to become an auditorium or perhaps a banqueting suite, where are the chairs and other furniture stored? Similar questions about other spaces, such as the Supper Room, could be asked.

Equally, many of the spaces are due to be used for community purposes, but no presentation is made that identifies what manner of activities are envisaged. How do flexible uses work? If classes are run, where would they take place? Other considerations, such as provision for child care are also absent. If Hornsey Town Hall is to be an arts centre rather than simply a venue, one might expect some sort of crèche space.

Evidently the various business and operational needs across the development have to be met, and this requires complementary and mutually beneficial uses of the significant spaces and rooms within the Town Hall. The arts venue may drive demand for the hotel, the hotel may demand access to venue space for weddings and conferences, and the main restaurant may demand a role as principal caterers for such events. Layouts should reflect these choices (for instance in the design of conference and seminar spaces, or in the provision of kitchens).

2. Changes to foyer design

The main entrance halls and lobby spaces, complete with marble and bronze detail, are the most important heritage spaces in the building. Therefore the decision to omit the new lifts and retain historic fabric, preserving the original appearance of the foyers and the original booking office is extremely welcome. We support the insertion of replica doors in preference to the non-original revolving door. Together with interventions such as the proposed retail space these moves improve the scheme, and will serve as showcase for the restoration.

Drawings for the Ground Floor lobbies and workspace

3. Changes to spaces created from Assembly Hall

The proposal is to divide the Assembly Hall into 3 – now 4 – spaces, forming: a 400 seat auditorium with stage, a function space with bar, and a new space formed from the Assembly Hall balcony. It is the latter which is amended here, to appear as a 2 screen cinema. The overall changes have significant impact on areas of high heritage value.

(a). Two screen cinema (F50a & F50b)

This planning application proposes changing the flexible first floor performance studio, formed from the Assembly Hall balcony, into two 70+ seat cinema screens. We have not seen any justification for this save the assertion in the applicants statement that it’s a good idea. Maybe it is, though we note that Crouch End already has 2 cinemas and 7 screens, and a new multiplex cinema has recently been announced for Finsbury Park. It’s a crowded market. We are also concerned that the acoustic separation from the Assembly Hall will not meet the demands of the main auditorium for complete silence.

(b). Assembly Hall (G57)

Notwithstanding the existing permission to divide the large space, reservations about the approach persist. It may be that a smaller principal auditorium is the correct decision, but we have seen little in the way of analysis – economic or audience – that cements the case for what is a major change to a listed space. A counter argument can be made that suggests it makes financial sense to retain the entire original Assembly Hall, which would then offer flexible space for profitable film shoots, larger events such as beer festivals, indoor markets, and orchestra/music rehearsal. In addition retention could significantly reduce project costs.

(c). Function space (G55a & G55b)

Once again this change already has permission, but the proposed use for the new multi-purpose function space, carved from the Assembly Hall, remains unclear. The space acts as direct access to the Assembly Hall, and at times of high usage (eg. Friday, Saturday evenings) it is very difficult to see it being anything other than a crush bar for the main auditorium. It would be impossible to use it for separate events (eg. private party hire) when performances are occurring in the main Hall – partly on access and safety grounds, partly because of the requirement of complete silence for theatre or music performance. Then again, perhaps it’s the ideal space for daytime community classes. What is it for?

In sum, reservations about the division of the Assembly Hall have been expressed to CENF from a variety of people, concerned that extensive changes are not made precipitously without an accompanying business case, artistic vision, and evidence of audience research. It may still be possible to reconsider plans with an emphasis on flexibility and integrity of the main space for all types of performance, festival or event.

4. Re-modelling of Supper Room

Another proposal presented as part of this application is the re-working of the lower ground Supper Room (LG40). This venue space has played an important, flexible and profitable role during the Town Hall’s meanwhile use as an arts centre. Its lower ground location and size proving invaluable in catering for noisy, late-night parties, club nights and private hires.

Unfortunately, the new designs for the space render that role much curtailed, as the size of the room is significantly reduced (by 50%) as sections are carved away to form a suite of recording studios and an expanded new kitchen area. The studios may well prove to be a useful addition to the development, but is it not possible to relocate them? Also, given the kitchen provision for the adjoining Annexe cafe and the large kitchen planned within a newly made basement for the West Wing restaurant, is this kitchen necessary?

The loss of an obvious late-night venue for wedding parties, with bar and space for 200+ people and no obvious alternative may be a mistake. Not least for the hotel.

5. Workspace provision

We welcome the continued commitment of the operators to provide workspace use in the development. CENF have long been supporters of this intention, particularly for small and micro businesses who find it very difficult to locate suitable workspace locally, at a reasonable rate. This conforms to Haringey Local Plan policies SP8, SP15 and DM40, which support the retention of current employment sites and provision of new workspaces, local employment, and SME business space.

In the drawings, co-working use is evident in a variety of spaces across the Town Hall, but we wonder whether further detailed proposals could be developed for specific operations. For example, designs are presented for the recording studios, but this approach could also work for the specific spatial needs of creative designer/makers, or for a suite of spaces for health and well-being practitioners, be they yoga, pilates, osteopathy or acupuncture (it’s a strong local sector). As we mentioned in previous comments about the scheme, anecdotally co-working ventures may struggle outside Central London, but conversely there is strong demand for flexible workshop and studio space.

Latest design TH Square

6. Public Realm

The increased detail for public realm designs is appreciated, though we do have a couple of queries.

(a). A pair of gates has appeared in the middle of the driveway section of the public square. They do not appear to be connected to any other boundaries. Hopefully the position of these gates is set with reference to proposed uses of the Square (events, markets, etc.).

(b). The residential development is still shown as gated (gates to Weston Park and Haringey Park). This is contrary to our understanding, which is that a N-S all-hours public pedestrian route allows better access and permeability and integrates the development within central Crouch End. This concept appears in the Officer’s Report to Committee for the original application (HGY/2017/2220) at 6.3.29 and 6.3.30.

Conclusion

The success of this project is of huge significance to Crouch End and we look forward to the realisation of the potential of Hornsey Town Hall. CENF remains of the view that a high quality restoration, as described in the various planning submissions, is not only of value to Crouch End town centre and to the community, but also serves to increase the value of all aspects across the developer’s scheme. Nevertheless, people have expressed to us doubts about design, impact, and the viability of the proposed future operation of the Town Hall.

The new uses of this important heritage asset must be shown to be sustainable, and this sustainability must be sufficiently robust to justify any impact on historic structure. We believe a determination of the above planning applications must take this into account, and that the LPA would be justified in seeking further reassurances, and that the issues outlined can be revisited by the developer, perhaps advantageously, and concerns allayed.

2 Comments

  1. Ruth Selig

    Where is the Ply gallery going?
    Thanks Mark for very comprehensive comments.

    Reply
    1. Mark Afford Author

      At the moment, it isn’t.

      Which is not to say they can’t change their minds about featuring the visual arts – but the current plans clearly identify a “permanent co-working space” where the Gallery currently sits.

      Reply

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