The Church Prevaricates

When Broach produced a carefully costed plan for a Concert Hall, with a restaurant and bar in the then Church Hall, the Church authorities countered by limiting the times and nature of the bar, knowing full well that the scheme was not viable in those conditions. Haringey wanted to buy the building freehold but the Church offered only a lease, and that with conditions: the building could not be used in any way for business or commercial purposes other than as a concert hall. This would have precluded use as a bank, shopping mall, etc, precisely the uses which the church had in mind if they ever succeeded in demolishing the site. Obstruction went on for months.

Late in 1977 Haringey resolved to make a cash offer, but it appeared that the church authorities had lined up potential purchasers and were determined to obtain the highest conceivable price for the site. The advising surveyors had the effrontery to claim that the building was not worth saving, despite the views of the highest architectural historians surd the protest of 9000 local people.

Broach issued a press release in February 1978 calling on the church authorities to negotiate fairly and asking the old congregation of the church 'not to accept this profit-motivated vandalism', but the negotiations still dragged on.

In January 1979 Andrew Golland, Dip Arch RIBA applied on behalf of Broach for Listed Building Consent to convert the church into a Concert Hall with restaurant and bar. Permission was granted by Haringey Planning Development Committee under the 1971 Town and Country Planning Act. 3'

Haringey reserved the money to buy the building but, with increasing pressure on its budget, was not able to retain it for the following year and was therefore no longer in a position to buy the building outright. By 1980 the financial climate was forbidding, which made it difficult for BROACH to raise funds for the conversion. Recording companies were worse hit than most and major orchestras were being affected by public expenditure cuts. The BBC was pruning orchestras which would reduce demand for rehearsal space.

BROACH now suggested that the building should become a Library, while still retaining facilities for small-scale recitals. There was a suggestion that Bond & White's should move in, but that would have altered the front elevation in an unacceptable way. In any case, there was no room for builders' lorries to park and load on this busy corner of the Broadway. A developer wanted to turn it into a shopping mall, but failed to complete. There was a proposal for nine flats and later another scheme for ten flats.

In the end another developer converted the Church Hall in Princes Avenue into flats, which are still in occupation and appear to be perfectly satisfactory, but the story of the Church is a complete disaster. Because the interior was not listed, the developer was free to put in a floor at balcony level, the pews and organ went to the four winds and the church became offices.

For some time Haringey Borough Council rented the offices for the Housing Department, but there were complaints about the ventilation. The staff did not like the conversion arid, as the economic climate became more hostile, the Housing Department moved out, no other tenant was found, and the building remained empty.

The integrity of the shopping parade has been saved. Edmondson's vision of a unified architecture for the Broadway remains, but even if a tenant is found for the building the noble space of the church had been destroyed and Muswell Hill deprived of a fine concert hall for ever.


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