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Our Aims

:: Stop any sale of a long leasehold interest of the Palace that's not for charitable purposes. The 1900 Alexandra Park and Palace Act provided that both Palace and park be held on trust "for the free use and recreation of the public for ever"

:: Safeguard the studios and the mast which pioneered the world's first high-definition television broadcasts and preserve the outline of the original studios A and B. Preserve and maintain the Palace's Victorian theatre and famous Willis organ. Protect public access to all of these and promote them as visitor attractions.

:: Reconstitute AP's trustees back to representatives of the whole of London and of the nation, capable of and interested in maintaining the Palace and Park for public use under its trusts (e.g. north London boroughs, The GLA, English Heritage, BBC, The Arts Council; individuals who have experience in community, heritage and educational areas.

The Palace is a unique national public asset and should be cherished as such.


In the news 2006
Letters to the press

Lib Dems spineless over palace

Muswell hill & Crouch End Times| 6.12.06

As chairman of the Board of Trustees of Alexandra Palace and park, I want to put on record my disappointment about the behaviour of Liberal Democrat councillors over the recent decisions on the future of the palace.

The board's decision to seek Charity Commission approval for a long lease to Firoka, securing the best interests of the palace and the people of Haringey, was backed by all Labour nominees to the board, but the Liberal Democrat councillors couldn't even bring themselves to vote for or against it, and just abstained.

Labour councillors have listened carefully to community groups and local people and reflected those concerns on the board. We have been committed to a future for the palace that is realistic and deliverable and which takes account of people's concerns. For almost seven years, Lib Dem councillors refused to become involved in decisions and stood on the sidelines. Less than a year ago they finally deigned to have a voice in the running of the palace and park. As their abstentions show, all they are doing is carrying their spineless posturing into the heart of decision-making about one of Haringey's most important cultural assets. They have neither the vision to back us nor the courage to oppose us.

Councillor Charles Adje
Chairman, Board of Trustees, Alexandra Palace and park

Ruling councillors should not sacrifice TV studios for
easy life

Muswell Hill & Crouch End Times | 26.10.06

Councillor Charles Adje explains that the proposed lease of Alexandra Palace includes clauses on the provision of a television heritage facility', while the managing director of Firoka explains that there will be a museum of some sort.' Crying Shame', October 19. These are desperate defences.

The simple truth is that there is nothing in writing to protect the TV studios at the palace after the deal is done. A museum of some sort' is not a promise to preserve any part whatsoever of the original studios.

The world's first television transmission was broadcast from the Ally Pally studios. They were the birthplace of BBC TV. They are a piece of world history on our doorstep, and something of which we should be immensely proud.

Labour councillors should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

Their job is to represent our community; to champion our community. Instead they are sacrificing our history to ensure a speedy deal that will make their lives easier.

It is, indeed, a crying shame.

Councillor Bob Hare Lib Dem spokesman for Alexandra Palace and Park

Guarantee cannot yet be given

Muswell Hill and Crouch End Times | 26.10.06

Your article on Alexandra Palace (Crying shame', October 19) contained some factual inaccuracies.

Councillor Bob Hare is not a spokesman for Alexandra Palace; he is one of seven members of the trust board and therefore cannot be said to speak for the palace.

You also say that there is no guarantee' that the studios at the palace will be maintained. The reason for this is that for public access to the studios to be created, substantial building work will be required. This will require planning and listed building consents, which will not be applied for until contracts have been exchanged.

It is simply impossible to guarantee' anything until consents are granted.

Finally, Firoz Kassam, the principal behind our preferred bidder Firoka, no longer owns Oxford United Football Club as you claim.

Keith Holder General manager, Alexandra Palace

Firoka’s record in Oxford does not bode well

Muswell hill and Crouch End Times | 2.3.06

I've been doing a little digging into the prospects for the future of Alexandra Palace under the ownership of its preferred bidder.

As always with these types of arrangements, the details of the contract remain shrouded in commercial confidentiality, but we may get some idea of what lies in store by examining another venture taken on by Mr Firoz Kassam and his company Firoka recently.

It purchased Oxford United Football Club's stadium in 2001 for £6 million (at which time there was no planning permission for development). Several months later, Firoka sold the stadium and surrounding land to Nuffield Hospitals for £12m (planning permission now approved for development).

The stadium was demolished and work began on the building of a hospital and a block of residential flats.

Meanwhile the club relocated to the new Kassam Stadium', for which the club pays £365,000 per year in rent to Firoka.

Not a bad little piece of business.

Oh, under Mr Kassam's ownership, Oxford United have been relegated twice, and now languish in the bottom half of the lowest professional division.

Try as I might, I can't help thinking that this story does not bode well for the future of Ally Pally.

M.S. Bounds Green

Lib Dems are hedging their bets on Firoka

Muswell hill and Crouch End Times |16.2.06

I see that Lib Dem councillors have voted against the selection of Firoka as the preferred bidder for the development of Alexandra Palace as a leisure and entertainment centre, which will help remove the financial burden from the local authority and its hard-working council tax- payers.

At the same time the Lib Dems have recognised the positive features of Firoka's proposals.

As usual, the opportunistic Lib Dems are playing politics and hedging their bets until they see which way the wind is blowing. If Firoka make a success of the project, then the Lib Dems will jump on the bandwagon to claim all the credit. But if the venture does not fare as well as is planned, then the Lib Dems will be the first to distance themselves from the enterprise and will stick the boot in.

Far from being concerned about the interests of the people of the borough, the spineless Lib Dems are more anxious about protecting their own necks.

I.H. Labour activist, N10

Who wants to live in the shadow of a casino?

Muswell hill and Crouch End Times| 9.2.06

I was shocked to see your report on the disposal of Alexandra Palace in last week's edition (Ally Pally bid decision').

The public consultation exercise at the building, lasting only one week and at the worst possible time of year for walking up a hill, was an absolute disgrace. If we need to supplement the commercial and community events staged at Ally Pally, then by all means let's have arts and sporting facilities provided, but a casino?

Is this really the best that the area can aspire to?

If Haringey Council gets away with this, I dread to think what it will do to property prices in the area.

Would you want to live and raise children in the shadow of such an establishment?

Better get the for sale' sign up quick and beat the rush.

M.S.Bounds Green


2006 | January - December

For other press cuttings please follow the links

Development threat to the palace where television was born
Independent 30/12/06

Consultation into sale of palace begins
Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 29/11/06

The one-month consultation period into the sale of Alexandra Palce to Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd began this week.

Members of the public are invited to give their views by writing to Charity Commission Direct, PO Box 1227, Liverpool, L69 3UG or emailing enquiries@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk by 12pm on January 5, 2007.

Reference number 522431 must be quoted. Once the consultation period is over, the Charity Commission will decide whether to give its consent to Haringey Council to grant Firoka the 125-year lease.

Concerns voiced as 125-year deal is done for Alexandra Palace

Hornsey Journal 17/11/06

MP Lynne Featherstone has voiced her concerns after the Firoka Group was formally granted the lease for Alexandra Palace for the next 125 years.

"Everyone, particular the Haringey taxpayer will be relieved to be no longer burdened with the cost of the Palace. That said, the future of the Palace now rests in the hands of the Firoka group for the next 125 years. I wish this new endeavour every success. However, this success still needs to incorporate the aspirations of local people and the preservation of the unique birthplace of television. I will be keeping a keen eye on progress as this take shape," she said.

Councillor Bob Hare, Lib Dem Spokesperson on Alexandra Palace, said: "We are not opposed to the principle of leasing the Palace, as long as it achieves a good result for the Palace and the people of north London. However, we have numerous concerns about the deal that has been negotiated which we feel have not been adequately answered. We shall be putting our concerns to the Charity Commission during the 30 day period for representations that will be starting now."

Anyone who wishes to make representations on the proposed lease of Alexandra Palace to Firoka for 125 years should write within the next 30 days to: Alexandra Palace Representations, Charity Commission Direct, PO Box 1227, Liverpool, L69 3UG, or e-mail: enquiries@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk, clearly marking correspondence 'Alexandra Palace' and asking for confirmation of receipt.

Preserve this unique piece of broadcasting history

Hornsey Journal 15/11/06

ALEXANDRA PALACE has a long, colourful and eventful history, but apart from its spectacular fires and its transformation for a short time during the war years into a POW camp, it is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of television.

The claim isn't strictly accurate of course, but it was at Alexandra Palace that the world's first television studios were built and where the BBC began television transmissions almost exactly 70 years ago.

In this age of technical and scientific innovation on what sometimes seems like a daily basis, it is easy to overlook the sense of excitement created by the transmission of those first grainy images. But there are many people still alive who can remember the enormous public interest generated by the construction of the new television station, including those signature masts which were still transmitting television pictures until 1981.

In the years since then, the studios have become seriously dilapidated . A website dedicated to saving the studios laments: ''The two main studios and their associated control rooms have been allowed to fall into utter disrepair and are now quite dangerous in places. The overall dilapidation of the rooms, once the pride of the BBC, is a very sad sight.''

Now Hornsey & Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone has tables an early day motion recognising the heritage of the studio and calling for it to be preserved and conserved as part of our national and international history.

She points out that there is no protection of the original studios in the proposed lease for the sale of the palace by Haringey Council but the new leaseholders would be entitled to point to 25 years of neglect as the main reason why the studios are endangered.

However, Ms Featherstone's motion should be warmly welcomed and supported. Surely there are enough people who care, to ensure that a way is found of preserving the studio for posterity, in a way that allows people to appreciate a truly unique piece of social history on our doorstep.

Historic TV studios could disappear in £70m office revamp

By Joanna Bale The Times 06/11/06

IT IS known as the birthplace of television — the venue for the world’s first public television broadcast. But 70 years on all trace of the former BBC studios in Alexandra Palace, North London, could disappear to make way for offices.

“This is direct television from Alexandra Palace,” were the words uttered by the presenter Elizabeth Cowell as the cameras rolled live for the first time on November 2, 1936. For the next 45 years the BBC used the studios to broadcast to the nation, channelling through it such historic events such as the 1953 coronation.

With the proposed sale of Alexandra Palace to Firoz Kassam, a businessman, in its final stages, there is no agreement that any part of the original studios will be preserved.

Historians and politicians last night called for an urgent review of the project. Robin Reynolds, head of heritage at the BBC, said: “What happened at Alexandra Palace 70 years ago has made a huge impact on the world. The studios tell a story not just about the first pioneers of television, but about a great British achievement.”

John Trenouth, former curator for television for the Science Museum, said: “The studios are just a small part of the palace and to destroy them would be a national disgrace.”

Lynn Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament to highlight the issue and the Charity Commission is due to hold a public consultation.

The initial television service consisted of mainly live programmes for two hours a day, except for Sundays. Light entertainment dominated, with assorted musicians, entertainers and even penguins from London zoo making appearances in the studios. Presenters such as Elizabeth Cowell and Jasmine Bligh spoke in clipped tones and wore evening dress.

Transmission was halted during the war, but the palace’s transmitter was secretly used to jam the German aircraft navigation system, causing bombers destined for London to drop their loads on the fields of Kent.

When BBC TV News left in 1969 the studios were used to house the Open University until 1981. One studio is now derelict. The other houses a small museum set up by amateur enthusiasts which the BBC is not allowed to spend licence-payers’ money to support.

The terms of Mr Kassam’s 125-year lease state that there should be a museum within the palace but it does not automatically guarantee the retention of the original BBC studios.

The studios are high-ceilinged rooms, 30ft by 70ft. One still contains a glass-windowed director’s gallery, accessed by a metal ladder.

Mr Kassam, managing director of Firoka, plans to spend £70 million transforming Alexandra Palace from a loss-making exhibition centre and ice rink into a leisure and entertainment venue with a cinema, hotel, nightclub, casino, bowling alley and health club.

He said: “The studios are very dilapidated and not easily accessible. If the BBC don’t want to throw money at it then why should they expect me to throw money at it? They have been empty for 25 years.

“The studios may stay where they are, they may not, but the heritage will be preserved."

Broadcast news

By N Dutta Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 02/11/06

Seventy years ago today the first ever television broadcast was made from Alexandra Palace. NEETA DUTTA explores the history of the studios and why its future is far from guaranteed "This is direct television from Alexandra Palace," were the immortal words uttered by presenter Elizabeth Cowell on November 2, 1936, as the first official television broadcast beamed across a 30-mile radius and into approximately 40 homes.

For the next 50 years, the BBC used two studios in the east of the palace to broadcast to the nation, including historic events such as the 1937 coronation of King George VI and the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II.

Transmission was halted briefly during the Second World War, but the palace's transmitter was modified and used to jam the German aircraft navigation system, causing bombers destined for London to drop their payload on the empty fields of Kent.

Today, the studios are not in use since the departure of the BBC in 1981. With the proposed sale of the palace to Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd in its latter stages, there has been no guarantee that the original studios will be kept.

John Trenouth was the senior curator at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television for 20 years and is currently working with the BBC on a show about the studio's anniversary. He said: "It is the birthplace of TV, it is where it all began. It is where what was once science fiction became science fact. It is part of our heritage."

While Scottish pioneer John Logie-Baird had been transmitting images since January 1926, for half an hour at a time in the evenings, his 30-line images were crude. By the mid-1930s, more than 50 different inventors and companies in 11 different countries had already tried to overcome the problems posed by a practical television system.

The British government was keen to develop a high-definition system, a minimum of 240 lines and 25 frames, and so in 1934 set up the Selsdon Inquiry (also known as the Television Advisory Committee). Its eventual decision, that there would be a high-definition television service run by the British Broadcasting Corporation, was the first attempt at television regulation.

Alexandra Palace was chosen as the best location, because transmission needed to take place at 600 feet above sea level and the palace, at 300 feet above sea level, only required the building of a 300-ft tall tower to be suitable.

In 1936 the BBC hosted trials between the EMI-Marconi and Baird television systems to decide which would carry the television standard for the future. Studio A was equipped with the Marconi-EMI Emitron system, while Baird installed his mechanical system in Studio B.

It was decided that the two systems would run side by side, alternating weekly, under evaluation for six months, after which a permanent system would be chosen.

"In true British style a coin was tossed to decide who would go on first that night," Mr Trenouth said. "The Baird system won, did its transmission, and then there was tea and scones and then the second transmission went out."

Marconi-EMI won the competition and became widely regarded as the first high-definition television service in the world.

Mr Trenouth said: "There were teething problems and mistakes were made, as you would expect, but those early engineers were true pioneers of television. One of the big things was that the transmitter should never have been in the same building as the studios because of the sensitivity of the equipment. Apparently in the BBC canteen, if you let your knife and fork touch, little blue sparks would fly."

The service consisted of mainly live programmes for two hours a day, from 3pm to 4pm, and from 9pm to 10pm, except for Sundays.

Output grew through the Fifties and Sixties before the news service moved in the Seventies.

The BBC continued to produce television programmes at Alexandra Palace for the Open University until 1981, when the university moved to Milton Keynes. It was at this point that the equipment was stripped from the rooms. The Alexandra Palace and Park Charitable Trust took on ownership of the palace in 1988 with Haringey Council in charge of administration.

Mr Trenouth said: "In a way, the studios have survived through a quirk of fate so far, but I don't think future generations will forgive us if they are lost forever. I visited them for the first time 19 years ago and it was a real moment with the hairs of my neck going up. It is like they are frozen in time and to stand there, where it happened, I think it is something that should be available to the public."

Firoz Kassam, the managing director of Firoka, is keen to point out that a television museum will be somewhere within the palace, but the maintenance of the original studios cannot be promised. He also added that no definite plans can be made until contracts are exchanged.

Liberal Democrat councillor Bob Hare, one of seven on the board of trustees, said: "I understand that they are in an unusable state, so they need work, but could be converted into a restaurant or cafe but with the actual structure intact."

An Alexandra Palace spokesman said: "Before any building work can be done to the palace, there will need to be a planning process including a public consultation and, at the consent of English Heritage, in concern of the building's listed status. Neither of these processes can start until contracts have been exchanged between the trust and Firoka.

"It is therefore not possible to say beyond what was in Firoka's early plan and whether and how public access to the broadcasting studio's is guaranteed."

There are to be no official celebrations today for the 70th anniversary but a small group of enthusiasts, including Mr Trenouth, plan to gather beneath the transmission tower to mark the day.

He added: "I understand the financial needs of a developer but I would hope that the historical value would be appreciated and some vestige of the original studio is kept."

Good news for users of old station

Hornsey Journal 27/10/06

It is always pleasing to bring good news. Users of the community space at the old Alexandra Park train station, a building of some considerable charm, have become increasingly worried about the facility's future in the light of the Ally Palace sale.

Trustees were concerned that the organisations which use the centre will be left homeless when their lease runs out in 2011 and were bidding to have the building removed from the sale agreement.

However, new owner Firoz Kassam has moved quickly to allay these understandable concerns. When informed of the situation by Broadway, he responded emphatically: ''If it has a community use and that is what is required locally, then that is what we will keep it for.''

You can't get much clearer than that. If Mr Kassam is a man of his word and he remains in charge of the Firoka empire - which he himself built from scratch - then the community organisations which are very much at home at the old station can afford to breathe a sigh of relief.

Mr Kassam might also like to put his assurance in writing, thus increasing confidence that the facility will remain in use for the community's benefit long after the present lease expires.

Crying Shame

By N Dutta Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 02/11/06


Park Life

The hornsey magazine 10/06

Palace gambling rejection concern: Firoka:
casino not integral to plan

By Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 30/03/06

The rejection of plans for a casino at Alexandra Palace last week may have jeopardised the whole redevelopment of the historic site, according to Haringey Council papers.

But the prefereed bidder for the palace, Firoka, said this week that, although the company was disappointed with the decision, and a new proposal will have to be found, the small casino was not integral' to the financial viability of the redevelopment.

At a meeting of the council's executive last Tuesday, members voted against allowing plans for the casino intended for use only by guests of a proposed hotel to be sent on to the Department of Media, Culture and Sport's casino advisory panel (CAP), to secure permission for the gambling facilities.

The council's report included comments from Andrew Travers, its finance director, stating that the gambling venue was an integral part of the redevelopment package, exclusion of which may jeopardise the whole redevelopment scheme'.

But Firoka disputes the claim. A spokesman for the company said: "There was language in that report to the council executive that suggested the casino element was 'integral' to Firoka's proposals, which may have been the opinion of the council report author. The valuation criteria used to assess the respective proposals did not use such language, neither has it been considered 'integral' during the negotiations to date. The casino part of the plan would have used a relatively small part of the entire site.

"If the council is not going to apply to the CAP for one of the new licences, a new proposal will have to be found. The negotiations between the trustees and Firoka's legal advisors continue and we are confident they will reach fruition in the coming weeks."

Under the new Gambling Act, local authorities must present casino proposals to the CAP, showing the economic and regeneration benefits to the area and demonstrating their willingness to give the casino a licence.

Financial guardians for Alexandra Palace

Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 10/03/06

A team of financial experts has been appointed to safeguard the future of Alexandra Palace as a major tourist attraction.

General manager Keith Holder has brought in specialist advisers to attract the necessary investment from the private sector to refurbish the palace, and pay for its multi-million pound annual upkeep.

Visitors flock to the ice rink, as well as concerts and exhibitions held at the palace, but much of the site is derelict and in desperate need of a cash boost.

Although there is not yet a masterplan for the palace, it is likely to include shops, restaurants, a live music venue, and even one of the Government's super casinos is being considered.

Councillor Andrew Krokou, chairman of the board of trustees, said: "The priority for the trustees is to make sure the palace and park are sustainable without the need for local authority resources. We believe the current plan to bring in external investment has the potential to achieve that aim."

The current development plan has been made possible by a statute passed in 2004 which enables the trustees of Alexandra Palace and Park Charitable Trust to offer a 125-year lease to external contractors, who guarantee to ensure continued public access to the palace and park.

Alexandra Palace was built in 1873 as a recreation centre and visitor attraction. It was destroyed by fire two weeks later but was rebuilt within two years.

Ally Pally bid decision

By Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 03/02/06

Plans to turn Alexandra Palace into a leisure and entertainment venue, including a cinema, hotel, nightclub, museum and casino, are one step closer after Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd was named as the preferred bidder for the London landmark's redevelopment.

The move was announced by the palace's board of trustees on Monday evening, after members approved a report from its team of professional advisors which recommended Firoka's appointment.

The report advised that negotiations should begin as soon as possible to agree the terms of the 125-year lease with Firoka.

The chair of the board of trustees, Vivienne Manheim, said: "The priority for the trust has always been to secure the future of the palace for Londoners and to remove the financial risk from the local authority. I am delighted this looks likely to be the outcome and look forward to fruitful negotiations beginning as soon as possible."

The priority for the trust has always been to secure the future of the palace for Londoners and to remove the financial risk from the local authority.
Vivienne Manheim, chair of the board of trustees for Alexandra Palace

Firoka which owns several hotels and Oxford United Football Club was chosen over fellow bidder, the Earls Court and Olympia group.

Firoz Kassam, owner of Firoka, said: "We are delighted to have been selected as preferred bidder, this is a major undertaking and we are looking forward to working with the trustees of the charity and the local community."

Lib Dem councillors Bob Hare and Wayne Hoban voted against the appointment.

They said they could not support the result of what was an unnecessarily rapid and inflexible timetable, arguing that the public consultation process had been inadequate and the concerns expressed to the board by the palace's statutory advisory committee had not been given an adequate response.

Both councillors did recognise the positive features of Firoka's proposals.

Mr Hare said: "Despite our concerns, both Mr Hoban and I fully recognise many positive aspects of the vision expressed by Firoka. The real work starts now to tie down the details of the Firoka bid.

"Lib Dems on the board will be doing everything we can to make sure that the palace development is successful, in the interests of the people of the borough and north London."

Ally Pally consultation 'insult to the public’

By Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 20/01/06

The public consultation process to determine who will run Alexandra Palace for the next 125 years has come under fire from angry residents and councillors.

Only a week was set aside for the public to view the proposals of one of the bidders, Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd.

The other bidder, Earls Court and Olympia (ECO), decided not to display their plans, despite both companies being asked to as part of their bid.

The process has been branded a sham' and an insult to the public' by the chairman of Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association, John Hadju, who is seeking further consultation with both bidders and a longer consultation period.

"The fact that ECO failed to provide any information about the bid makes the consultation null and void, with not enough information available for residents to make any comment," he said, adding that there had been little publicity and no details on traffic implications, noise and pollution.

A spokeswoman for Alexandra Palace said: "There is no statutory requirement to consult the public at this stage of the process.

"However we have proactively sought to provide the local community with the opportunity to comment on the proposals."

She added that two committees containing representatives from community groups have been advising the boards of trustees and kept informed throughout the consultation process.

People's palace

By Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 12/01/06

Alexandra's future: the first phase of Firoka's plans (main picture, highlighted in light green) will incorporate the exhibition section, the second (dark green) the hospitality area and the third (blue) the public entertainment facilities Alexandra's future: the first phase of Firoka's plans (main picture, highlighted in light green) will incorporate the exhibition section, the second (dark green) the hospitality area and the third (blue) the public entertainment facilities

Alexandra Palace could soon be transformed into a public leisure and entertainment venue.

The site could house a cinema, hotel, nightclub, museum, small casino, new ice rink, bowling alley, recording studio, gym and children's entertainment facilities, under plans unveiled this week by one of the two bidders for the 125-year lease.

Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd revealed large public display boards outlining its proposals at the palace on Monday.

The company's rival, Earls Court & Olympia Group (ECO), chose not to exhibit its plans, despite being asked to as part of its bid.

ECO did, however, submit a detailed business plan to trustees, promising a comprehensive renovation'.

Both bids outline using the palace as an exhibition, leisure and entertainment development. This would also include the restoration of the theatre space for public use, and the continuation of popular events such as the fireworks display.

The palace's celebrated Willis Organ, situated in its great hall, also features in both proposals. Firoka plans to refurbish the musical instrument, while ECO will pay for it be to relocated from the theatre to an appropriate setting.' ECO's plans were less detailed than its competitors, but did promise a media/heritage/educational facility based around the history of television and journalism'.

The firm would operate the existing ice rink until the equipment is no longer viable for safe use.' The general manager of Alexandra Palace and Park, Keith Holder, said: "We are in the final phase of the selection process and we are delighted by the high-quality submissions we have received.

"The professional team will be evaluating each proposal against strict and approved criteria, which includes looking at the deliverability of the vision each sets out for the palace's future."

Firoka's plans are on display in the Palm Court area of the Palace, but the public only has until noon on Tuesday to comment on both sets of proposals.

The extent of the public consultation, which also includes a comment box to enable visitors to provide written feedback, has been criticised.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Bob Hare said: "The boards are up for only a week for the public to comment on and comments can be written down.

"It is meaningless out of all the public consultation processess I could have conceived, this has to be the most pathetic."

The board of trustees is expected to announce the preferred bidder in February.

u On Monday, the Liberal Democrats announced that they will be appointing two councillors to the Ally Pally board.

The party had previously not taken its positions on the board due to concerns about its constitutional postition, powers and structures.

Ally Pally bidder drops out of race

By Kay Murray Muswell hill and Crouch End Times 05/01/06

One of the companies shortlisted to take on the 125-year lease of debt-ridden Alexandra Palace has withdrawn its bid.

The Business Design Centre Group (BDCG) notified the palace of its withdrawal just before Christmas, weeks before the final decision is set to be made.

Neither side are commenting on the reasons for the move due to confidentiality agreements, but a spokeswoman for Alexandra Palace said: "We are obviously disappointed. However, the competition is still very strong and we have every confidence that we will come to a successful conclusion."

Dominic Jones, chief executive of the BDCG, a company which holds high-profile exhibitions, talks and educational fairs at its centre in Islington, remained equally tight-lipped.

"As we are bound by the terms of a confidentiality agreement, we will not be making any further statements," he said."However, we would like to take this opportunity to offer the trustees and staff of Alexandra Palace our very best wishes for the future."

BDCG's departure now leaves the Earls Court and Olympia Group, and Firoka (Heythrop Park) Ltd to battle it out for the lease of the historical site.

The three bidders were originally chosen from a total of 13 companies in November, at which point they were asked to provide more detailed proposals to be displayed to the public by today. The two remaining contenders will make a presentation outlining their plans to the Alexandra Palace and Park Board and Haringey Council on Tuesday.

Displays of their proposals will be on show in Palm Court from 12pm on Tuesday until 12pm on Tuesday, January 17, and the board will then make a final decision on its preferred bidder later this month or at a meeting on February 7.