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Green light for historic restoration of Alexandra Palace

Proposals to restore some of Alexandra Palace’s most significant historic spaces to their former glory and secure its future as one of London’s stand out destinations have been approved by Haringey Council. A £28million project to restore the historic Victorian theatre as a cultural venue, and to transform the pioneering former BBC studios into a visitor attraction and learning space telling the story of television was agreed by the Council’s Planning Committee last night (Monday, 16 February).

The consent paves the way for the project to go ahead, subject to approval of a major grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund in March. If successful some areas of the listed landmark will be made accessible to the public for the first time in recent history. Under the plans, the Palace’s stunning hidden theatre dating back to1875 will be brought back to life for community and commercial use, with rehearsal space, performances, cinema screenings, live comedy and acoustic music among the ideas backed by leading arts figures. The theatre will accommodate audiences of up to 1,300, but has been designed to suit smaller and more intimate performances too.

The BBC studios – birthplace of high-definition television broadcasts in 1936 – would be turned into an interactive visitor attraction telling the remarkable story of the birth of broadcast television, drawing on the BBC’s extraordinarily rich archives. There will be a special focus on schools and educational programmes, displays of historic equipment and hands-on engagement with the art of making television programmes.

The plans won support from many local residents, as well as backing from restoration experts including English Heritage, the Theatres Trust and the Victorian Society.

Haringey Council Leader Claire Kober said: “These are brilliant plans for Ally Pally, which pave the way for the next chapter in this beautiful building’s history.

“Alexandra Palace has become a hugely successful venue, but with parts of the building in a state of serious decay, we have to act now to restore and preserve this landmark for generations to come.

“Opening up the spectacular Victorian theatre and transforming the derelict BBC studios will mean more people can enjoy Alexandra Palace and learn about its rich heritage, while we can be confident of a sustainable future for Haringey’s most iconic building.”

Chair of the Alexandra Place Board Cllr Joanna Christophides said “This news gives a major boost to the project and to our Heritage Lottery bid. The widespread support we have demonstrated  provides a sound platform for taking our plans through to implementation”

The plans will also see the bricked-up colonnades along the Palace’s south terrace opened up to restore them to their nineteenth century appearance and improve links to Alexandra Park.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Alexandra Palace, said: “We are delighted with the planning committee’s decision, which allows us to move forward with the project and is a major step in the transformation of Alexandra Palace to realise its full potential as the “People’s Palace” once again.”

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