Monthly Archives: August 2018

Council covering letters to leaseholders and tenants about water sprinklers

Introduction

One Residents Association received notification of from the Council about water sprinklers which is detailed below;

“Date: Fri, Aug 17, 2018 at 2:02 PM
Subject: Fire safety – First Tier Tribunal update

Dear Residents Association  

 By way of information, the application to the First Tier Tribunal on the installation of sprinkler systems was submitted a few weeks ago and we have now received the preliminary directions from the Tribunal. By the end of the weekend, all leaseholders in properties of 10 storeys or more will have received a copy of the attached letter with the preliminary directions which includes a reply form for commenting on the application or getting involved in the proceedings. In addition copies of the letter and directions will be displayed in all high rise blocks and tenants will have had a separate explanatory letter. 

The link below takes you to information regarding the tribunal application and directions from the tribunal itself.  

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200570/safety_in_your_council_home/2294/fire_safety/9

Please contact me if I may be able to assist further”.  

With it was a letter for leaseholders.

The letter is below.

What about tenants?

It was asked what letter had been provided to tenants, as Resident Associations, can consist of tenants, and they too received a letter, as shown below.

Why weren’t both letters shared in the first instance?

Good question, why weren’t they shared together?

 What do you think?

Please leave a comment on the blog with your thoughts.

 Caveats

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.

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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. Please note that if an email is sent any response might be part of a generic group email.

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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Labour – Sprinkler Installation and Application to FTT by Wandsworth Council (27 August 2018)

The below is an update from Councillor Claire Gilbert which was was received on 27 August 2018 with regards to the proposed retro-fitting of water sprinklers in 10+ storey blocks in the Wandsworth Borough Council ward.

—————–

From: Claire Gilbert

To: claire gilbert

Sent: ‎Monday‎, ‎August‎ ‎27‎, ‎2018‎ ‎09‎:‎45‎:‎58‎ ‎AM‎ ‎BST

Subject: Sprinkler Installation and Application to FTT

Dear all,

I am contacting you further to my email below of 22nd August 2018, with further information regarding Wandsworth Council’s application to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) regarding the issue of charging Leaseholders in high-rise blocks for installation of sprinklers. As you will know, the Council’s application applies only to Leaseholders in the 99 blocks which have been identified by the Council (the majority of which are 10 or more storeys). Therefore it is that group which is the focus of this email and the attached documents.

Support for Council Tenants

Some of you will be speaking to residents in your area who are council tenants, and therefore not part of the FTT case. I would strongly encourage all Council Tenants in affected blocks, who are also very much affected by Wandsworth Council’s policy on sprinklers, to contact their ward councillors with their views about sprinkler installation. I am also very happy to receive such comments from all wards, as a member of the Housing Committee.

Support for Leaseholders

I attach to this email two documents. The first is a letter from ward councillors in Roehampton & Putney Heath to Leasehold residents in affected blocks about the Council’s application to the FTT, and the policy position taken by Labour locally. We will be endeavouring to deliver the letter in hardcopy to all affected residents in the ward over the coming week.

 

 

 

As you will see in the letter, we are holding an open meeting on Sunday 2nd September from 7pm at the Alma Pub, 499 Old York Road, Wandsworth SW18 1TF. I very much hope that you will come. The meeting will be conducted by Councillor Paul White, leader on Housing issues for Labour locally, with ward councillors for Roehampton, West Hill, Queenstown, St Mary’s Park and others attending. We very much look forward to hearing your views about this issue and the Council’s approach.

(You will also be aware from my last email about the meeting at which sprinklers will be discussed by the Council’s Housing & Regeneration Oversight & Scrutiny Committee on 13th September at 7:30pm).

The second document attached to this email is a template letter which residents may find helpful if they wish to request more time from the FTT to provide their response to the correspondence that has been sent out to date. I have prepared this template in light of the number of people who contacted me with concerns about the deadlines set out in the FTT’s correspondence. I’m afraid that I cannot say one way or the other whether the FTT would offer more time upon such a request – that is something wholly within its discretion under the Tribunal rules. However, those who feel under pressure may wish to use this template to ensure that their voice is heard on this point.

 

** Although I am a lawyer by profession, I am not an expert on the FTT or matters of property law. I’m afraid that I cannot provide any resident or RA with legal advice on this matter (or indeed any other matter) as it would not be permitted within my professional conduct rules. I therefore cannot recommend or advise any particular step to be taken by residents. However, I am very keen to support residents with having their views heard and with suggestions as to how they might wish to ensure that they participate in the FTT process.

Finally, I would urge you please to sign our petition to have your say and keep up to date with what’s going on. The petition can be accessed online at Battersea.laboursites.org/sprinklers where you will also find updates on this issue as it progresses. Labour Councillors will be out speaking to residents with hardcopies of the petition at various events over the coming weeks.

I hope that you will contact myself, Sue and Jeremy if you have further questions or comments regarding Roehampton & Putney Heath. For other wards, I am also very happy to receive comments and provide support as far as possible.

We very much look forward to seeing you at the Roehampton Festival on 1st September (2-7pm), at the open meeting about sprinklers on 2nd September (7pm), and/or at the Housing & Regeneration OSC on 13th September 2018 (7:30pm).

With kind regards,

Councillor Claire Gilbert

——————-

Caveats

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.

Receive articles into your inbox when uploaded on the blog

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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.

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

 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

Labour – Sprinkler Installation and Application to FTT by Wandsworth Council (22 August 2018)

The below is an update from Councillor Claire Gilbert which was was received on 22 August 2018 with regards to the proposed retro-fitting of water sprinklers in 10+ storey blocks in the Wandsworth Borough Council ward.

 ——

From: Claire Gilbert

To: Claire Gilbert; Gilbert, Claire (Cllr); Paul White

Cc: Jeremy Ambache; Sue McKinney; Angela Ireland; Maurice Mcleod

Sent: ‎Wednesday‎, ‎August‎ ‎22‎, ‎2018‎ ‎04‎:‎56‎:‎53‎ ‎PM‎ ‎BST

Subject: Sprinkler Installation and Application to FTT by Wandsworth Council

Dear all,

I am contacting you on behalf of the ward councillors in Roehampton & Putney Heath regarding the issue of charging for sprinkler installation in high-rise blocks of flats in Wandsworth. I have set out at the end of this email a list of all of the homes (42 blocks) in the ward which are affected by this issue.

As I hope you are all aware:

* The Council now made its application to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) (dated 26th July 2018) – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/13626/application_for_a_determination_of_liability_to_pay_and_reasonableness_of_service_charges

* The FTT issued preliminary directions dated 6th August 2018 setting out the first two dates in the Tribunal process and requiring leaseholders to provide certain responses in a pro-forma Reply Form by 7th September 2018.  http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/13625/preliminary_directions

* The Council has produced its own 45 page “Case Summary”. http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/13624/case_summary

* The Council sent a letter to residents and put up copies of the Tribunal’s preliminary directions on or around 17th August 2018.

* A Case Management hearing has been scheduled for 27th September 2018 (at a venue TBC).

I am aware from a number of sources that many residents have not received letters from the Council, and that notices (required under the Tribunal’s directions to be displayed “in a prominent position in the common parts of the affected properties“) have been removed. I am also aware that many residents feel that they should be afforded more time in which to read the relevant documents and provide their response to the Tribunal in light of the fact that notification of the Tribunal Application has fallen in the holiday period. Thanks are due to all of those who have raised concerns and asked questions about this matter to date. And I am particularly grateful to those RAs who have met with me and shared their views.

I would like to notify you that the Labour Group in Wandsworth is preparing a number of resources for residents to support and assist them with this issue. I am working directly on these resources which include a template letter for affected Leaseholders which they may use if they wish to request additional time from the Tribunal to provide the Pro-Forma response (currently due by 7th September). The Council’s Case Summary (see link above) is clearly not a document which sets out the point of view of residents . Wandsworth Labour Group will support residents with putting forward their points to the Tribunal. Your local councillors will be attending the Roehampton Festival on 1st September and will be very happy to speak to you about this issue (and any other concerns you may have), as well as being available via email and at our regular surgeries.

Wandsworth Labour’s policy is that we support residents to make their own choice on a block by block basis regarding the installation of sprinklers in high-rise blocks. We do not support the Council’s proposed imposition of sprinklers (and charging for this via Service Charges) without balloting of residents on a block by block basis. We believe that residents can and should decide for themselves about this important issue. We will support residents in the forthcoming Tribunal process to have their views heard, and we call upon Wandsworth Council to get its house in order across all aspects of fire safety in the Borough. It is simply not credible or reasonable to put substantial management time and Council funds into forcing residents to pay for installation of sprinklers when there are other aspects of fire safety which the Council has failed to keep up to date on. All residents should have access to independent reports on the risk of fire in their block. Where there is undoubted support for sprinklers, they should be installed as soon as practicable.

Councillor Paul White, Wandsworth Labour’s lead on the Housing and Regeneration Oversight and Scrutiny Committee, will be speaking with Cllr Malcolm Grimston on this issue in the next Council meeting on this matter on 13th September 2018. Residents are welcome at the meeting, and indeed I would encourage them to attend if possible. However, of course this is not necessary in order for residents’ views to be represented, and as a member of the Committee I will be ensuring that the comments which I receive are made known.

Please note that the venue for the case management hearing scheduled for 27th September is likely to depend upon the number of residents who indicate that they wish to attend. I have made a formal request that the FTT clarifies the venue as soon as possible and that it takes into account the convenience and travel considerations for the numerous Wandsworth residents who have already told me that they would like to attend.

I would encourage you please to contact your ward councillors, Cllr White and officers if you are concerned about this issue, and I will keep you informed as to what Labour is doing locally to support residents. Please do pass on this email to residents and Residents’ Associations who are affected by this issue. If you are aware of concerned residents in other wards, I would be happy to signpost them to the correct person on the Labour team working on this.

With best wishes,

Claire Gilbert

Councillor – Roehampton & Putney Heath

LIST OF AFFECTED PROPERTIES IN ROEHAMPTON & PUTNEY HEATH

  1. Allbrook House 1-45
  2. Allenford House 1-44
  3. Binley House – 1-75
  4. Blendworth Point – 1-42
  5. Bramley HOuse 1-44
  6. Brockbridge House 1-44
  7. Cadnam Point 1-43
  8. Charcot House 1-75
  9. Chilcombe House 1-48
  10. Crondall House 1-48
  11. Denmead House 1-75
  12. Dunbridge House 1-75
  13. Dunhill Point 1-41
  14. Eashing Point 1-43
  15. Egbury House 1-44
  16. Esme House 2-48
  17. Farnborough House 1-48
  18. Finchdean House 1-44
  19. Grayswood Point 1-42
  20. Hilsea Point 1-42
  21. Hindhead Point 1-43
  22. Holmsley House 1-44
  23. Hurstbourne House 1-44
  24. Kimpton House 1-48
  25. Longmoor Point 1-43
  26. Louisa House 1-43
  27. Lyndhurst House 1-44
  28. Overton House 1-44
  29. Penwood House 1-44
  30. Redenham House 1-44
  31. Rushmere House 1-48
  32. Sarah House 1-43
  33. Shalden House 1-44
  34. Somborne House 1-48
  35. Swaythling House 1-44
  36. Tatchbury House 1-44
  37. Warnford House 1-44
  38. Westmark Point 1-42
  39. Wheatley House 1-44
  40. Winchfield House 1-44
  41. Witley Point 1-43
  42. Woodcott House 1-44

Caveats

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.

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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.

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

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

Councillor Malcolm Grimston’s 10+ storey block update – dates to remember (30 August 2018)

The latest update from Councillor Malcolm Grimston was received on 30 August 2018 with regards to the proposed retro-fitting of water sprinklers in 10+ storey blocks in the Wandsworth Borough Council ward.

 —–

From: Malcolm Grimston

To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston

Sent: ‎Thursday‎, ‎August‎ ‎30‎, ‎2018‎ ‎11‎:‎44‎:‎03‎ ‎PM‎ ‎BST

Subject: 10+ storey newsletter – dates to remember

Dear All,

I am away for a few days from Saturday (though I should be in email contact) but just a few final reminders about the sprinkler campaign.

SEPTEMBER 2 (everyone), 7pm at the Alma Pub, 499 Old York Road, Wandsworth SW18 1TF – I gather the Labour Party is holding a public meeting to help build the campaign.

SEPTEMBER 7 (leaseholders) – last day for letting the First Tier Tribunal know you wish to be ‘involved’ in the process. You do NOT have to pay anything; you do NOT have to fill in the long form, only the one-page Reply Form (fourth page of the papers the Council sent round); you do NOT have to go on September 27 (see below – but it is great if you can) or indeed do anything else; and you CAN submit it by email as an attachment despite the automated email you may receive saying ‘applications’ can only be done by post (you are not making an ‘application’ apparently). So I would suggest as many of you as possible register your wish to be involved so as to emphasise the level of unhappiness with the Council’s scheme.

Many of you have already nominated me to speak on your behalf on September 27 if you can’t make it – I am very happy to do so and if anyone else wants to do the same please feel free; my address to put in the box in the middle of the Reply Form is Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU.

SEPTEMBER 13 (everyone) – Housing and Regeneration Committee meeting at the Town Hall. I am suggesting that we have a protest outside the Town Hall at say 6:30pm onwards so we can catch members of the Housing Committee as they arrive at the Town Hall. If you can stay on for the meeting itself, at 7:30, please do: I have written a paper which I am presenting alongside the Labour Group asking that money be made available from your rents and service charges for legal advice, to match the sum that the Council is using to support its case against you.

SEPTEMBER 27 (leaseholders), 10am – preliminary meeting of the Tribunal, venue not yet decided.

I am working on a ‘master document’ to summarise the full case, which I intend to submit some time before the main Tribunal hearing that is expected in November. If you would like to see it please let me know, comments will be welcome. If anyone wants to write a technical/engineering commentary that would be helpful as that is out of my field of expertise.

Finally, extracts from emails which I have had from you which I have found particularly moving. This policy really is causing an enormous amount of misery to residents who have a right to expect better from their Council.

  • I’m writing to you with regard to “Sprinkler Gate.” I have quite a bit of experience when it comes to fitting sprinklers as I am a qualified sprinkler fitter. I have worked on some of the tallest residential new builds in Canary Wharf and have worked on the iconic Battersea Power Station development. But I have also worked on retro fits of old people’s homes around London and I can inform you that it is a very disruptive, incredibly messy and unpleasant experience for both residents and fitters alike. The type of concrete that our particular building is constructed from both makes fire spreading practically impossible and makes it a very lengthy job to get sprinklers fitted. I, like most leaseholders, don’t have thousands of pounds lying around to pay for something we don’t want or need. Other residents I have spoken to about the subject are all in agreement, tenants and leaseholders alike.
  • I am in my mid 50s and have worked hard for the last 30 years always paying my bills on time. I now find that I have not much of a pension built up (some of the money given to Wandsworth council for poor major works should have been put into a pension). I also have health issues and this stress/worry about more major internal building works is not helping. When I bought my flat in the early 1990s I thought that I would be able to retire by now but sadly I may in fact have to sell and move a long way from what I call home.
  • I am now ill from exhaustion and not working after dealing with all those builders and troubles. I have nobody to help me out financially as I live singly. Would be devastated if I have to pay for sprinklers. Two lifts in our block do not work intermittently, soon probably they will have to be exchanged for new ones – this is another very likely expense in this block and big worry for me. Even spreading the costs for the sprinklers and lifts over four years will not help me if I am not working and ill. So the only option would be to sell my flat as I will not have the money to repay. Is this what WBC is pushing me to do it – sell it as I cannot afford the potential future costs of sprinklers? But I am in my 60s and I cannot move out again it is too traumatic!!!
  • I oppose the installation of sprinklers in my flat because the construction of our block is safe and does not allow for fire spread: the Fire Risk Assessment from the Fire Brigade does not recommend sprinklers in our block. These blocks were safe to live for the last 60 years – why are they now unsafe? I have not witnessed any fire in this block since I have moved in here about 15 years ago. The installation of those sprinklers will brutalise our interiors and there would be further nuisance with the sprinklers which goes with that chronic damp and mould on the walls and obviously accidental damage of sprinklers and floods and extra redecoration and extra costs of contents insurance. I do not trust WBC as with regard to cost for the sprinklers that it will be just £4,000 – I fear the real cost will be much more as has happened before. I have family of four and I am the only earner – I cannot afford a third loan to pay for the sprinklers. It is so just frightening, how I will cope?

Best wishes, hope to see you on the 13th!

Malcolm Grimston

Councillor (Independent), West Hill Ward


Caveats

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.

Receive articles into your inbox when uploaded on the blog

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

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.

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

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

 

Councillor Malcolm Grimston’s 10+ storey block update (22 August 2018)

The latest update from Councillor Malcolm Grimston was received on 22 August 2018 with regards to the proposed retro-fitting of water sprinklers in 10+ storey blocks in the Wandsworth Borough Council ward.


From: Malcolm Grimston

To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston

Sent: ‎Wednesday‎, ‎August‎ ‎22‎, ‎2018‎ ‎01‎:‎50‎:‎21‎ ‎PM‎ ‎BST

Subject: 10+ storey news – the Tribunal: further confusion

Dear All,

I am hearing that the Tribunal is not accepting electronic applications to become ‘involved in proceedings’ – see the attached screen shot. This strikes me as extraordinary but I would suggest you get your application in as soon as possible to make sure you are not rejected at the last minute – you only need to fill in the one-page ‘Reply Form’ in the Council paperwork and certainly you do not need to pay anything!  I’d suggest send your form in by email at first but if you are rejected leave enough time to send by snailmail. Several of you have nominated me to attend the first meeting on September 27 on your behalf which I am very happy to do – if any others who can’t go on that date would like to do the same it may strengthen the sense that there is widespread anger and opposition to these proposals.

“SECURITY”

I made an error in my last email as I had missed paras 43-45 of the Council’s case summary document. The Council does intend to argue that the sprinkler system is necessary to ensure the security of each Block which has a ‘Type 2’ lease, on the grounds that “there is a risk that that [sic] any Block may sustain fire damage ad in the worst case burn down and thereby cause insecurity to the occupants of the Block.” So the Council is willing to recharge just the Type 2 leaseholders if the Tribunal rejects the administration and maintenance arguments.

Incidentally the whole argument seems very odd to me.

In terms of the installation of sprinkler systems being ‘necessary’ or even helpful to the administration of the Blocks, the Council has explained to me how there will need to be an extra £1.2 million spent on officer time over the next four years to administer the scheme. If administration is indeed going to be improved it is hard to see why it should cost an extra £1.2 million.

Similarly the maintenance of the blocks, for from it being impossible without sprinklers, will be hugely more complex if in addition to the day-to-day issues there will now have to be ongoing maintenance of a tacked-on sprinkler system, ensuring that accidental and deliberate triggering is unlikely, mopping up when it happens and so on.

I also can’t see how people feeling secure in their own homes, knowing that nobody (except the rare criminal) can force their way in and damage their property, will feel more secure under the threat that at any time the Council can do just that.

DON’T FORGET THE PROTEST AT THE TOWN HALL ON SEPTEMBER 13 – Paul White (the Labour Party housing spokesman) and I are just finishing our paper arguing that money should be made available to residents from the Housing Revenue Account to take legal advice to defend yourselves against the Council. I am told that a senior Council officer explained at the Borough Housing Forum that the Council would not be letting residents see the Council’s legal advice because “you wouldn’t show your legal advice to the opposition”. Very illuminating, especially as ‘the opposition’ had to pay for that advice!

Best wishes,

MALCOLM GRIMSTON

Councillor (Independent) West Hill Ward


Caveats

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.

Receive articles into your inbox when uploaded on the blog

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

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.

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

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

Councillor Malcolm Grimston’s 10+ storey block update (19 August 2018)

The latest update from Councillor Malcolm Grimston was received on 10 August 2018 with regards to the proposed retro-fitting of water sprinklers in 10+ storey blocks in the Wandsworth Borough Council ward.

 _________________

From: Malcolm Grimston <malcolmgrimston@btconnect.com>

To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston <mgrimston@wandsworth.gov.uk>

Sent: ‎Sunday‎, ‎August‎ ‎19‎, ‎2018‎ ‎08‎:‎55‎:‎23‎ ‎PM‎ ‎BST

Subject: 10+ storey news – tribunal special (Case reference LON/00BJ/LSC/2018/0286)

Dear All,

The Council has published more on how it intends to proceed with regard to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) looking into the lawfulness or otherwise of imposing sprinklers on 10+ storey blocks and charging residents for the privilege. See http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200570/safety_in_your_council_home/2294/fire_safety/9. As has sadly become normal it is a dreadfully biased summary of the true situation, designed to help the Council in railroading this through against residents’ wishes. There is a very tight deadline of September 7 for comments: whatever the motive for this, the effect is that many people will be on holiday or otherwise unable to respond in time. The Council should have circulated the relevant papers to all leaseholders by now but I am hearing from several of you who have not received them.

TIMETABLE

September 7 – comments on the proposals and requests to be involved in the proceedings have to be with the FTT. This involves filling in a one-page Reply Form and sending it to both the First Tier Tribunal Property Chamber (Residential Property), 10 Alfred Place, London WC1E 7LR – email rplondon@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk – and sending a copy to the Council’s representative, Mark Cooper, South London Legal Partnership, Gifford House, 67c St Heller Avenue, Morden SM4 6HY, mark.cooper@merton.gov.uk. I attach the Preliminary Directions for those of you that have not seen them – the form is on the fourth page. Although a number of Residents’ Associations are putting together responses from their residents, which is excellent, again it cannot do any harm if every leaseholder who opposes this writes to the Tribunal asking to be ‘involved in the proceedings’ and, if available on the 27th of September (see below), asks to be allowed to attend in person.

September 13, 6.30 for 7.30pm – Housing Committee meeting at the Town Hall (at the junction of Wandsworth High Street and Fairfield Street), a chance to express your opposition in person. I’d suggest meeting outside the Town Hall from 6.30 onwards: the Committee meeting itself is open to the public and Councillor Paul White, Labour Party spokesman on Housing and I will be putting a paper on the matter to the Committee (see below). If any residents wish to make a ‘deputation’ to the Committee (perhaps from the east of the Borough as we have already had excellent presentations from West Hill and Roehampton) to express your views then please let me know as soon as possible.

September 27, 10am – case management hearing in London, at 10 Alfred Place WC1E 7LR if there is little interest or at another venue if a lot of people wish to come. If you want to take part in this you must fill out the Reply Form and submit it in time. Technically this is only for leaseholders but it can do the case no harm if Council tenants who oppose this imposition also write to Mr Cooper and the Tribunal.

If any of you cannot get along but would like to nominate me (or anyone else) to speak on your behalf please include my name and address on the form – i.e. Councillor Malcolm Grimston, Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 2PU (and let me know!).

HOUSING COMMITTEE, SEPTEMBER 13

Councillor Paul White and I will make three suggestions in our Paper on September 13.

  1. It is against natural justice that the Council is using residents’ money on legal advice and representation without making a similar sum available to residents to defend themselves. This is wrong and should be changed. Tribunal to ensure that it has the authority to undertake and charge for the works.(I have personally asked the Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Kim Caddy, kcaddy@wandsworth.gov.uk, as a matter of natural justice she will make funds available to residents up to the level of your money that the Council is going to use against you. Understandably she did not sound keen but is going to ‘look into it’.)
  2. The Council should work with residents to find a third party who can carry out a block-by-block fire risk assessment to determine for which if any of our blocks a reasonable case might be made for sprinklers. Many residents do not trust the Council to do this fairly without simply coming up with a blanket support for its policies.
  3. A binding ballot be held on a block by block basis: only if a majority of residents support the installation of sprinklers should the work go ahead.

If any more petitions are available by the beginning of September we can submit them and refer to them at this meeting.

SAMPLE LETTER

For interest, you can read a letter to the FTT from the Battersea Park Estate RA here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OMVG2r8W4txKEuzJOZ2vO1opfhMq7LdI5nG8JJSSrfw/edit?usp=sharing.

THE COUNCIL’S CASE

  1. One interesting point struck me on reading the Council’s case. The ‘Type 1’ Leases refer to the Council being allowed to recover service charges to “do such things as the Council may decide are necessary to ensure the efficient maintenance and administration of the Block.” (The dictionary definition of ‘administration’ is ‘the process or activity of running a business, organisation etc.’ and of ‘maintenance’ is the process of preserving a condition or situation or the state of being preserved’.) Only Type 2 leases also refer to the ‘security’ of the block in addition. This is annoying for the Council as in effect they cannot argue that the forced imposition of sprinklers improves the security of the blocks, as even if successful this would leave them unable to recharge the work to those with Type 1 leases and even for this Council that might be found to be unacceptably unfair. So they are arguing the following:

“The installation of sprinkler systems are [sic] necessary for the efficient maintenance of each Block because in the absence of a sprinkler system there is a risk that any Block may sustain fire damage and in the worst case burn down and hence require the rebuilding or other repair and maintenance’.

The installation of sprinkler systems are necessary for the efficient administration of each Block because in the absence of a sprinkler system there is a risk that any Block may sustain fire damage and in the worst case burn down and hence require the rebuilding or other repair and maintenance which has an impact on the following matters of administration:

  • the amount of the insurance premium. That is payable in respect of the Block;
  • the rehousing of the tenants and lessees resident in the Block whilst the Block is rebuilt.”

The Council has (inevitably in my view given the wording of the leases) not said that it is doing this to save lives, just to save money and inconvenience in the vanishingly unlikely events both that a fire would consume an entire Block (which has never happened in any block without cladding or, in one case, wooden balconies) and that if fire did break out in such a way sprinklers would prevent its spread (which we know they wouldn’t because of the fire e.g. at the Address Downtown Hotel in Dubai in 2015). However, the leases, remember, say that recharging is only allowable if the work in question is necessary to ensure the efficient maintenance and administration of the Block – not that it might under some extremely unlikely circumstances make it a bit easier. So on the face of it the Council needs to show that without imposing sprinklers on you all it will be unable to administer the Blocks (i.e. send out bills, charge the rent, put letters round asking you not to throw rubbish out of your windows or leave bikes in the stairwell) or to maintain them (e.g. carry out programmes of redecoration, mop the floors. However, it is precisely points like this which need a professional legal viewpoint.

Incidentally, the Prime Minister made the Government’s position clear in October 2017 (see https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-sprinklers-money-grenfell-promise-broken-accusations-a8007501.html). “It is not the case that sprinklers are the only issue that needs to be looked at or addressed, nor is it the only solution to ensuring the safety [of tower blocks]. In specific rejection of Wandsworth’s request for £30 million funding the Prime Minister said: “[Government financial] support will not include general improvement and enhancements to buildings.”

WHERE WOULD THE MONEY GO?

I am concerned about the cost of the programme and especially the management fees that would go on top of the actual costs of installing the sprinkler systems. Mr Ian Stewart, Assistant Director of Housing Management, tells me: “We will employ a consultant to put the programme together and prepare specifications and then run the contracts. This work will be fee tendered so I’d expect fees of 3-4.5%. Council officer time is a percentage on top of the consultants fees and will reflect the additional work that various officers will have to put in around consultation and billing costs for example. The fee structure is transparent and also challengeable but generally the fees for Wandsworth major works projects fall below the industry average of around 10%. We aren’t intending to employ more staff or pay bonuses in relation to this programme of works.

So the Council will be charging something like 5% to leaseholders and the HRA for its own time but will not be paying anything extra as there won’t be any more staff employed or bonuses paid. So where will it go? (Mr Stewart did not know.) As I understand it the programme will take £24 million from the Housing Revenue Account (I am not sure if leaseholder contributions are on top of this), presuming no big problems with asbestos etc.. 5% of £24 million is a tidy £1.2 million, or £300,000 a year over the four years of the programme. That would buy a huge amount of officer time – if any extra officer time were needed. But we are told it isn’t. Obviously if officers are going to devote time to this instead of doing what they would otherwise be doing then you should all get a rebate of exactly the same amount as the surcharge to reflect the fact that you weren’t getting what you would otherwise be paying for.

THE LETTER TO LEASEHOLDERS

A few comments on the Council’s propaganda letter which has also been published on the website:

Fire safety

Proposal to fit sprinkler systems to high-rise residential blocks

Following the fire at Grenfell Tower last June, we proposed that sprinklers should be fitted to all properties in blocks of 10 storeys or more – bringing fire safety up to the same standard that would be found in a similar newly built block. (If you lived in a private block of the same age as the Council ones you would have nobody coming to impose this on you – the Council is not comparing like with like.) Fire safety experts including the London Fire Brigade Commissioner, the Royal Institute of British Architects and, most recently, a cross-party select committee of MPs have supported the retro-fitting of sprinklers to high rise residential buildings. (The Select Committee says sprinklers should be fitted and paid for by the government. The Fire Brigade, coming under a lot of criticism for its response to Grenfell, is arguing that sprinklers should be fitted in all 6+ storey blocks. I have seen nobody who supports the Council position as it stands.)

How sprinklers can help 

High rise buildings are built to ensure that fire is contained within an individual compartment but there remains a risk that fire can spread and there are recent examples of this happening. (In almost every case that the Council has been able to provide where fire has spread the problem was with flammable cladding, except for one where wooden balconies were involved. There is no evidence at all that fire can spread if there is nothing to spread it and many examples in Wandsworth blocks and elsewhere where fires have indeed been restricted to the property of origin.) Sprinklers are considered the single most effective method of suppressing a fire at the point of origin. It is a matter of fact that sprinklers protect buildings (the many fires in multi-storey hotels, such as the Address Downtown in Dubai, show that the presence of sprinklers does not prevent fire spreading throughout a building when it has flammable cladding) and save lives (the clear evidence is that, with the unique exception of Grenfell, you are least likely to die as a result of a fire breaking out in your property if you live in a 10+ storey block compared to lower properties, and that the imposed sprinklers may save one life in Wandsworth in the next 25 years. By contrast, spending the same sum say dealing with the chronic damp and mould that residents have to put up with would have huge health benefits) and we believe that these works are necessary to ensure that the risk to residents from fire is kept to a minimum. (If you live in a private house or block the Council thinks you are clever enough to be able to take a decision over how best to use your money, but if you are a Council tenant or leaseholder you are too stupid and need the Council to protect you from yourselves.)

Undertaking the works 

For a building to be fully protected, sprinklers must be fitted in every property (the Council’s view is that if you live in private housing you are clever enough to make decisions and we have taken legal advice to establish if the standard lease will allow us to undertake these works to leasehold properties. Our advice (paid from out of the Housing revenue Account – i.e. with residents’ money – but which the Council is still refusing to allow the residents to see) is that we can proceed but before we commit funds to developing a sprinkler programme we have chosen to make an application to the First Tier Property Our advice is that we can proceed but before we commit funds to developing a sprinkler programme we have chosen to make an application to the First Tier Property Tribunal to ensure that it has the authority to undertake and charge for the works.

Best wishes,

MALCOLM GRIMSTON

Councillor (Independent), West Hill Ward

Attached – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/13625/preliminary_directions

____________

From: Malcolm Grimston <malcolmgrimston@btconnect.com>

To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston <mgrimston@wandsworth.gov.uk>

Sent: ‎Monday‎, ‎August‎ ‎20‎, ‎2018‎ ‎12‎:‎40‎:‎54‎ ‎AM‎ ‎BST

Subject: Tribunal special – extra

Sorry to contact you again but I have had several expressions of concern about the way the document the Council sent out (and which I attached to the newsletter yesterday).

The document has been presented in such a way as to cause confusion and to worry people that they are being charged up to £300 to take part. I do not know if this was deliberate or just thoughtless. However, to be clear, you do not have to pay anything to be registered as being ‘involved’ in the process or to attend on September 27th.

Pages 1-3 of the document are the Tribunal’s preliminary directions.

The fourth page (not numbered as such) is the Reply Form – it is only one page and that is all that you have to return to be registered – you do not have to pay anything.

Page 5-16 (numbered 1-12) are a copy of the application form that the Council has already submitted to the Tribunal. It contains practically nothing of any value to residents. The £100 and £200 sums mentioned on numbered page 9 are the one-off sums the Council has already paid to set the judgment process going (using your money of course). This was a separate document from the First Tier Tribunal and did not have to be put side-by-side with the Reply Form.

Best wishes,

MALCOLM

_______________

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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.

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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

Are leaseholders under represented?

Introduction

With all of the noise that has been raised off the back of the retro fitting of water sprinklers there has been a feeling amongst many leaseholders that there concerns are not given enough focus. This was even raised at a Borough Residents Forum (BRF) meeting in Paper 18-11.

What did Paper 18-11 state?

The following was noted;

“Ms A. Ireland, Edgecombe Hall Estate Residents’ Association, reiterated the comments she had made at the Central AHP meeting on 5th December 2017, namely that there was a feeling among leaseholders on the Edgecombe Hall Estate that they were not adequately represented by bodies such as the Residents’ Association, Area Housing Panel and Borough Residents’ Forum. In response to a question regarding whether the Council would consider introducing a Leaseholder Forum, the Director of Housing and Regeneration advised, in light of his experience of having separate bodies to represent leaseholders and tenants, that this would be very divisive and result in very polarized views being given. The Director added that the current form of resident participation/engagement in this Borough has evolved through the years with an emphasis and direction provided by the BRF of the consultative arrangements being more inclusive. Therefore, the idea of dividing residents into tenants and leaseholders would be a retrograde move. The Chairman of the Forum, Councillor Salier also did not want resident participation to move backwards, and that leaseholder issues should be raised under the participation structure available. Ms Chantry, Doddington West RA, stated that the constitution did not exclude anyone. Ms H. Chantry added that the objective was to build positivity and to act as a cohesive force. Ms H. Chantry further added that as a cohesive force an RA was more powerful. Ms B. Doyle, Crown Court RA, and Mr. M. Gwilliam, Falcon Road RA, both stated that their RA was inclusive of everyone and worked well. Ms C. Smith, Cambalt Road RA, agreed that tenants and leaseholders should be kept together, but did say that there should be items of interest on the agenda for leaseholders as well as tenants, for example, lease extension would be of interest to leaseholders. It was agreed that a presentation on lease extension would be given at the AHP meetings. Ms A. Ireland remained concerned and felt that leaseholders were not adequately represented in the current participation structure”.

What do you think?

Please leave a comment on the blog with your thoughts.

Caveats

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.

Receive articles into your inbox when uploaded on the blog

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

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. Please note that if an email is sent any response might be part of a generic group email.

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