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April 7, 2006

Casino refusal sends palace plans into a spin

Haringey Council has refused to back plans by the Firoka Group, new leaseholders of North London's Alexandra Palace venue, for a casino on the site. A recent meeting of the council's executive declined to put a 'non-binding expression of interest' to the government by the 31st March deadline.

The decision has led to speculation that other components of the Ally Pally plan might now be thrown into jeopardy.

But John Angus, operations director for Firoka, denied that this altered the company's commitment to a multi-million pound revamp of 'The People's Palace', declaring, "all plans are variable.

"It's not going to diminish our drive towards taking over Alexandra Palace and we're not going to change what we're doing at present," he told a local newspaper.

In January, Firoka were named preferred partners for the redevelopment of the site. Its proposals include the expansion of existing exhibition space; the addition of a hotel, restaurant and bars; the restoration of the Victorian theatre, and the retention of popular local events like the 5th November firework display.

The announcement of the chosen bidder has had a number of other organisational consequences. A new group - the Friends of Alexandra Park, encompassing members from local residents' associations - has been formed to preserve public use of the park during the Palace redevelopment. There are concerns that the developer may also be granted a maintenance contract for the park.

And the venue has become the latest recruit to the AEV (Association of Event Venues).

"The timing could not be better for us to join," remarked Chris Gothard, head of sales and marketing at Alexandra Palace. "This will enable us to further engage and reinforce our commitment to the exhibitions and events industry." soccer's 2008 European Cup competition will be moved elsewhere. Twickenham will host the Challenge Cup final, while England's soccer fixtures are expected to be played at Old Trafford.
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