Monthly Archives: December 2017

Have you seen the latest tourist attraction on the Alton Estate, the Hersham Close waterfall?

Since the end of July 2017 there has been water which leaks on and off from a height on 41-71 Hersham Close. The Hersham Close Residents Association (HCRA) has been in frequent contact with the Council about this being repaired and it is understood that action is being taken to correct this.

The photo does not highlight the water leak though the Alton Regeneration Watch (ARW) Twitter account has a short video.

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

 Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

 

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10+ storey block newsletter December 2017 from Councillor Grimston (16 December 2017)

Leaseholders and tenants across the Wandsworth Borough Council may be interested in the newsletter that has recently come out from Councillor Grimston regarding water sprinklers. The newsletter is below;

_________________________________

From: Malcolm Grimston <malcolmgrimston@btconnect.com>
To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston <mgrimston@wandsworth.gov.uk>
Sent: Saturday, December 30, 2017 3:25 PM
Subject: FW: 10+ storey newsletter December 16 2017

Dear All,

The televised service marking six months since the Grenfell disaster was extremely moving – whatever differences we might have over an appropriate response to this tragedy I know we all have in our minds and hearts the dreadful suffering of those who felt that their councils and other bodies were not listening to them. I hope the promises that have been made that councils will listen more in the future are sincere and are acted upon. However, nothing changes the fact that our blocks have proven themselves safe over many decades and that none of the ten West Hill high rise buildings have ever had the cladding which was so disastrous at Grenfell.

RECHARGING LEASEHOLDERS

Unfortunately Wandsworth is still refusing to allow anyone but the inner circle to look at the legal advice (which it bought using our money) about the rechargeability of sprinklers, but it is obvious that the matter is by no means as black and white as Wandsworth would have us believe. For example, Hammersmith & Fulham Council is taking a very different approach from Wandsworth – it does not intends to put sprinklers in individual rooms but in the communal areas: it intends to do the work in all its council blocks, not just the high rise ones which (excluding the one-off disaster at Grenfell) were the safest from a fire danger point of view; and it is not recharging leaseholders even for new firedoors where needed.

The Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Sajid David, has said that private landlords should not charge leaseholders for cladding work (see https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/news/javid-private-landlords-should-not-charge-leaseholders-for-cladding-work-53475). Mr Javid said: “When it comes to local authorities and housing associations they have made clear that they will not be passing on the costs and that is the right approach. For the private sector landlords I would like to see them follow the lead of the social sector and not pass on the costs to their tenants [by which I suspect he means leaseholders, given the context].” It is not clear if this should also apply to sprinklers – probably not – but it is an interesting legal question as to why not. (Wandsworth is not recharging the works to the two blocks, Sudbury House and Castlemaine, which need to have cladding removed as the Council has admitted it was at fault in fitting it in the first place – all that cost will come from Council tenants across the Borough.)

Hearteningly, he also said that more money was going to be made available for the Leasehold Advisory Service so that leaseholders can have more information about their rights in defending themselves from their landlords.

I should say that I am not in favour of shifting the costs onto the backs of the tenants alone – I want to see residents at the heart of deciding whether they want this inevitably expensive and disruptive measure at all in buildings that have proven themselves safe for decades. But the council’s refusal to let anyone outside the power that be scrutinise why it is taking a very different legal position from at least some others is starting to look dubious.

RESIDENTS IN THE MEDIA

We have managed to get some publicity for the argument that residents should have a greater role in choosing how to proceed rather than having things imposed from the Town Hall. A number of leaseholders have been interviewed by the BBC. Radio 5 etc., and by the written press such as the national Guardian (see https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/nov/11/wandsworth-anger-fire-sprinklers-bill-grenfell-tower), and have made the case for their views being taken properly into account when decisions are taken. I was interviewed for the BBC local TV news and made the point that if this work does have to go ahead then it is not fair that all the cost should fall entirely on the residents (tenants or leaseholders), both because some of those living in Council blocks are not the most affluent in society and because tower blocks are not evenly spread across the country. I also made the point that the money being proposed for sprinklers could be (in my opinion better) used in dealing with the many problems of damp, lifts breaking down, old kitchens and bathrooms and so on that I see in our council housing stock. Later in the day the Leader of the Council had been recorded saying in effect that Wandsworth had run its housing so brilliantly that it did not need any help from the government (though it would not say no if some were offered). Given that the government had already made it clear that it would only consider giving help to Councils in financial hardship this was a very peculiar line to take. Obviously overnight some words were said behind closed doors because come the next day the Leader was very publicly asking for help from the government, like many other councils had been doing from the start. Whether this makes any difference is of course yet to be seen but in any case it isn’t just about the money…

COUNCIL MEETING

The issue was raised in questions at the Council meeting on December 6. As past performance led me to expect, rather than trying to discuss the concerns of the leaseholders (and many tenants) seriously, senior councillors simply attacked me personally and effectively dismissed the concerns of leaseholders as only involving ‘a small number’. I was accused of spreading ‘needless scare stories’ (for suggesting that our blocks are still as safe as they ever were, presumably) and accused of being irresponsible. Well, ok, I’ve been called worse over the last three years but it did betray a certain mindset. There was a reference to ‘a small number of leaseholders’ who were expressing concern. In my newsletter of August 26 this year I called for the Council to spread the costs for leaseholders over at least three years – the one bit of good news is that the Council has given in to this, in fact extending it to four years. Even so I don’t think the Council has heard two important messages:

  • it is considerably more than a “small number” of leaseholders who would like their views to be heard and acted upon – I am aware of a large number of leaseholders and at least a small number of council tenants;
  • it is not (only) about cost – there are all sorts of concerns, ranging from destruction of people’s decorations; to concerns about sprinklers going off accidentally or through malice; to not wanting the disturbance when the buildings have shown themselves safe for decades; to the poor quality of many major works projects; to a general objection at the Council feeling it can march into someone’s home against their will and do what it likes; to the same sense of frustration at a council that will not listen as is being expressed by the Grenfell survivors and families.

I asked a question of my own (as outlined in my last newsletter) – the Leader did not try to explain why residents in our blocks are being treated so differently from people in private blocks of the same age or acknowledge that it is a very different matter to include features at the design and build stage than to backfit them to existing buildings. We should remember that in June the government said it would not even force private blocks to undergo fire tests, let alone have a particular expensive and disruptive approach forced on them (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/private-landlords-not-forced-check-fire-cladding-combustible-safety-tower-block-a7805296.html). To be fair to the Leader he did accept that his comments recorded in the minutes of November’s Let’s Talk meeting, which he had seen and passed as accurate, in fact were misleading.

I do not know what the position of the opposition is at the Council – they did call for ‘meaningful consultation’ but whether this means meaningful consultation (i.e. actually acting on residents’ views) or not is not yet clear.

It could be a rather interesting New Year! Let’s hope it is a sensible one.

Best wishes,

MALCOLM GRIMSTON

Councillor (Independent), West Hill Ward

_______________________________________

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

Alton Leaseholders meeting (13 December 2017)

This was the third meeting of the newly created Alton Leaseholders group. Given it is the third meeting in just over a month (November 6th and 20th being the others) this highlights that there is a desire to create a leaseholders group which can positively influence change on the Alton Estate. In attendance there was about a dozen people who braved the cold and very wet weather who offered their views. It should be considered that over a period of a couple of months, driven primarily by one individual getting up early on weekends, that 56 leaseholders from mainly the tall buildings on the Alton Estate have expressed an interest in participating in this group.

Update on actions

The Chair was very keen to get updates from attendees on the progress of their actions. Like any meeting there was progress on some actions and not on others, which seems to be the case for almost any group depending on the capacity of individuals to commit and their ability to resource the action with life.

One action where the Chair was keen to emphasis was that an ask had gone out prior to the meeting requesting what items should be considered as part of a leaseholders group. Only one person provided any feedback on this.

To know what the actions are and what the progress was, that will be something for you to find out by attending a future meeting.

Water sprinklers

It has been mentioned at both of the previous meetings that there is need to not be focused only on water sprinklers, though this seems to be driving focus for many at the moment. This could be understandable given for many they have (1) have paid large sums on service charges mainly in part due to the installation of double glazing, (2) are having retro-fitting of water sprinklers forced on them without a choice and (3) there are far too many queries which need to be answered.

There still seems to be a slow take up of residents requesting a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment for their block. The numbers of Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) seen to date is only eight out of the 42 for the ward. The number 42 being the amount of buildings in the ward being retro-fitted with water sprinklers.

In terms of Councillor Govindia being able to obtain funding from the Government for water sprinklers there is some scepticism as an earlier request has already been turned down.

There was some discussion on whether the Roehampton & Putney Heath ward Councillors would assist. It was commented that Councillor Sue McKinney met with four residents during a Labour Saturday surgery and they convinced her that water sprinklers were not required (though this had to be discussed with the Opposition speaker at the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee) yet a few days later at the Council meeting it was agreed and Councillor McKinney did not even speak on the topic despite representing a ward which has the most tall buildings to be impacted.

A general consideration was what, if any, support can be gathered from the ward Councillors. It was mentioned that at a June Western Area Housing Panel (WAHP) it was mentioned by Councillor McKinney that the retro-fitting of water sprinklers was with cross party agreement.

An update was highlighted that someone who is very concerned by the looming expense of this sought assistance from Councillor Sue McKinney who then pointed that individual to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

One theory which was expressed was that this could be a long term strategy by the Council to make the blocks appear as though they were unsafe which might make it harder for owners to sell, in turn making this easier for the Council to buy back at lower cost than what otherwise might have been the case. This is assuming that, one day, the Council might buy these apartments back under possible future regeneration work.

Legal challenge

Those impacted by the possibility of having water sprinklers retro-fitted discussed the prospect of challenging this through the legal system. There was a desire to explore this option more fully at the next meeting.

Next meeting

That is to be confirmed though is currently pencilled in for 8 January 2017 (though this is yet to be confirmed).

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

Temple in grounds of Mount Clare, Minstead Gardens

Off the back of the article ‘Wandsworth (Conservation Area) Advisory Committee (9 January 2018)’ there were a couple of requests to add a photo of the Temple to the blog. A generous photographer from the Alton West part of the estate provided a picture, which is provided below. This picture was taken roughly in November 2014, note that even then this Grade II* monument was boarded up. In the photo you can see in the background the DARA Focus Hall.

 

Perhaps what is a little surprising is how long it has taken to start placing this monument on the radar for some needed attention. At the Putney Society organised event ‘Roehampton University and how it relates to the local community’ on 24 September 2015 the Temple was asked about and there was a mention of the Temple being Heritage at risk and that there had been some vandalism to it.

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

 

A lesson in how not to paint double yellow lines?

Kimpton House residents on the Alton Estate recently had an interesting experience with regards to how the Council painted double yellow lines next to the building.

The following photos were taken on the 17 & 18 December 2017.

This first photo shows one side of the road on Fontley Way as having the double yellow lines completed.

The next photo shows parts of the double yellow line, though notice the white vehicle which is relevant for the next photo.

The white vehicle is now gone and it can be seen that the double yellow lines have not been completed.

The Council was approached about this semi-completed job. A reply has yet been forthcoming though the following photo was taken on 20 December 2017 and the double yellow lines had been completed. Coincidence?

In any event, these double yellow lines might add to further problems with regards to limited car parking spaces in the area. Also the question has been raised with the Council with regards to how these double yellow lines will be enforced and the answer may be of interest to local residents.

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

 Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

What did Councillor Govindia write to Chancellor Hammond regarding water sprinklers? (24 December 2017)

To try and keep in the loop regarding the progress of potential financial support for the retro-fitting of water sprinklers, the following has been asked of the Council;

“in the Council’s article –

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/14249/council_leader_urges_chancellor_to_provide_financial_support_to_leaseholders_over_fire_safety_measures– it states that “Council leader Ravi Govindia has written to the Chancellor Philip Hammond in the wake of today’s Budget to request specific financial aid for Wandsworth leaseholders to help them pay their share of the cost of installing sprinklers in their homes following the Grenfell Tower tragedy”.

Can the missive which was sent to the Chancellor Hammond please be provided and any response that has been received?”

Keep an eye on the article ‘Council leader urges Chancellor to provide financial support to leaseholders over fire safety measures’ for the answers.

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

What became of the portacabin planning application?

For background on Roehampton University’s portacabin planning applications this can be found in previous articles within this blog under variance references such as ‘portacabins’, ‘2016/1385’ or ‘2016/5912’. Many people have asked about this planning application, for various reasons whether it be what happened or how did it not go to the Council’s Planning Application Committee (PAC), and this blog is to highlight some further background which might be of interest, not just for this application, though perhaps for others.

There were three retrospective planning applications, with the first two being withdrawn.

Application number: 2015/5648

Proposal: Erection of six portacabins for a temporary period of five years.

First Council document mentioned is on 14 October 2015 and the decision notice of 19 February states this application was withdrawn on 14 February 2016.

The portacabins in question are highlighted in the photo below taken from Kimpton House. Keep an eye on the portacabins in the red rectangle. Parkstead House (Grade I listed) is in the background.

Application number: 2016/1385

Proposal: Retention of seven portacabins sited against the southern boundary for a period of three years (affecting the setting of a Grade I listed building).

Decision: Withdrawn

Notice the retention change in the proposal from five years to three years, though the number of portacabins increased from six to seven?

This application was started on 15 March 2016, only a month after application 2015/5648, though was able to continue until December 2016. At this stage, this retrospective planning application had been in motion for a year with two withdrawn applications. There were a lot of objections which were lodged against this withdrawn planning application meaning that objectors had to start again with the next planning application.

Application number: 2016/5912

Proposal: Retention of three portacabins at the southern end of the site for use as additional teaching space for a further 3 years (Affecting the setting of a Grade I listed building).

Application Registered: 14 November 2016, though documents started to be uploaded on 11 October 2016

Decision: Approve with Conditions 14 February 2017

Again, there were a lot of objections, though have you noticed two further amendments.

The retention is now for three cabins instead of seven. Also, the date of approval is 28 months after the first document was uploaded (15 October 2015) with the first planning application (2015/5648).

The following photo, also taken from Kimpton House, highlights the now removed portacabins.

Didn’t Councillor Carpenter suggest he was going to provide resident representations at the Council’s Planning Application Committee (PAC)?

Yes, this was stated at the Roehampton Forum, yet didn’t happen. It has been suggested that Councillor Carpenter may not have been aware of the Council’s delegated power which permits planning application to be agreed by the Council’s planners rather than the PAC. This application was approved as it was less than 500 square metres of non-residential floor space. If this is true, one hopes that Councillor Carpenter is aware of the delegated powers now that he is on the PAC?

Another suggestion was that maybe Councillor Carpenter did not make his views known to the PAC that he wished to make representations at the PAC regarding this planning application. If this is true, then could Councillor Ambache, who was on the PAC at the time, could have informed Councillor Carpenter to make his representation position known to PAC members?

At the Let’s Talk event of 12th September 2016 wasn’t the portacabin planning discussed?

Yes, it was, and the following is taken from the Minutes;

“4. Roehampton University

Question/Comment – A resident said that he had contacted the planning service, without response, about the portacabins that had been erected without planning permission in the car park at Roehampton University facing Kimpton House. He said that the portacabins had been in place over 4 years and reduced on-site parking provision at the University that had been pushed out onto already busy roads such as Holybourne Avenue and Fontley Way. He suggested a survey by the University about staff and student parking during term and non-term time to determine the impact of the portacabins and said that residents were being forced into accepting a CPZ because of University demands. Concern also raised that the University is ‘getting away’ with not following due process and who is auditing the process? A resident raised the issue of excessive noise emanating from the University portacabins that affected Kimpton House and ‘terrified’ some residents.

Response – It was noted that an earlier planning application had been withdrawn but a revised one was due to be submitted including a transport assessment. A planning enforcement notice was still valid in respect of the unauthorised structures. Councillor Carpenter said that the University claimed that the portacabins did not reduce parking as the car park had been repainted to provide the same number of spaces as previously. He again advised residents to come along to the councillors surgeries to speak about any problems and if possible to attend the Roehampton Forum and Roehampton Partnership meetings. Councillor Ambache told the meeting that breaches of planning control should be reported to the planning service at the Town Hall and that, as a member of the Planning Applications Committee that would consider any application, he would not be able to ‘take a position’ on the matter but was listening to the related dialogue. He also confirmed that he was available to be contacted on any of the issues raised and this could be done in a variety of ways.

Councillor McKinney said that she understood the portacabin area to be the psychology department.

 With the consent of the meeting, Rev. McKinney then spoke as a governor of Whitelands College to inform the meeting that some concerns had been expressed at the Roehampton Forum. He said that he would raise the issue of the noise with the college and also that as far as he was aware the portacabins would be removed as the need for them had now reduced”.

Note that there is a comment in the Let’s Talk Minutes which states that the “portacabins would be removed as the need for them had now reduced”?

What does this application and Ibstock School’s planning application (2015/5074) have in common?

Both applications have taken at least two years to work their way through the planning system before being approved, though were being utilized by the applicants to some extent. As this is typed, Ibstock School’s planning application was registered on 22 September 2015 and is yet to be approved.

Three attempts for one planning application, maybe something to think about for 66 Alton Road?

With so many objections to the second application having to be repeated for the third application, is this a lesson as to the fate that 66 Alton Road (planning application 2017/3082) may face? Residents and interested parties may need to be vigilant in keeping an eye out for further attempts to demolish this building.

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

 Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate