Tag Archives: Councillor

Points of concern raised with ward Councillor regarding retro-fitting water sprinklers (9 September 2017)

It was a little while ago, though in the context of discussions regarding retro-fitting water sprinklers the following might be of interest.

On Saturday 9th September 2017 four Alton Estate residents attended the Councillor’s surgery on to discuss retro-fitting of water sprinklers off the back of the Paper 17-269 which was to be discussed at the Council’s Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 14th September 2017. The ward Councillor who this was discussed with was Councillor Sue McKinney, who also attends this meeting. Timing wise many on the estate received a copy of the September Brightside magazine earlier the same day which mentioned retro-fitting of water sprinklers which did not mention how this would be funded.

As far as these four residents were concerned, the following points were raised;

  1. Water sprinklers were first brought up in June there has been ample time to arrange to door knocking of residents to seek views and opinions, or to arrange a consultation. The response was that summer holidays may have had something to do with this.
  2. Related to this was that instead of Labour campaigning, such as what was seen the previous Saturday in Putney then perhaps this resource could have been better spent on garnering views about water sprinklers.
  3. That the absence of the Borough Residents Forum (BRF) Minutes from the Western Area Housing Panel (WAHP) Agenda for the meeting of 11th September was not on (as this included an item about water sprinklers) and needed to be raised and added back in. This was raised by a Residents Association.
  4. Residents raised that there are block differences which need to be considered.
  5. One block has requested a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment and was waiting for a copy of this. They are not held by the Western Area team and are held centrally. It was suggested that if any residents were concerned then having a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment based on the ground floor might assist with some comfort.
  6. A discussion regarding frequency of Fire Risk Assessments was held, top of head thoughts were monthly or quarterly.
  7. One resident highlighted disappointment that a query regarding water sprinklers sent to Councillor McKinney the previous Sunday had not been acknowledged.
  8. Concern was expressed about contents insurance in that it was doubtful one’s residence would be covered if the water sprinklers went off by accident. A mention of wooden floors was highlighted as a problem area should this happen.
  9. In the paper 17-269 there is a mention of potential building insurance benefits. Councillor McKinney was unaware of the current cost of building insurance for blocks and one resident suggested low £100+. [Post meeting update, having just seen one building’s service for 2015/2016 the Buildings Insurance premium is £12.43. If correct, then the benefits of section 24 of the paper 17-269 is perhaps negligible].
  10. Concern was raised about whether there could be electrical fires which start as a result of water sprinklers.
  11. One resident presented statistics regarding deaths from fires in the Wandsworth Borough which worked out to be 1.2 per annum and queried whether this cost was commensurate with what the £26 million cost to the Council.
  12. A mention of possible double counting of service charges could be on the cards. Major works are being conducted now on tall blocks on the Alton Estate, by installing water sprinklers would this undo any of the works being paid for now. If yes, then would leaseholders be paying to have this put back to pre-water sprinkler state?
  13. Uncertainty about where water sprinklers would be located was highlighted, would they be inside flats or just on the landing areas?
  14. One resident asked whether there was consideration that forcing this onto residents as part ‘security’ meant that leaseholders who have bought properties and tenants who have moved into them, have therefore moved into properties which were not ‘secure’ and whether they could have a legal case?
  15. Legal action was mentioned as a possible challenge if this is ‘imposed’ on leaseholders.
  16. Buildings on Danebury Avenue with long walkways which are covered might pose a risk if residents are at the furthest points from the stair case.
  17. Leaseholders in tall blocks are currently undergoing major works which is costing between £7,000 to £10,000 and now they have will have to contend with this additional cost.
  18. One resident mentioned that in one block the Council is very good at removing clutter from landings.
  19. There was also concern regarding the ongoing costs of servicing the sprinklers.

Councillor McKinney was asked to object to Section (b) and (c ) of Point 3 and the feedback was that this seemed a reasonable request thought this would need to be put past Councillor Paul White, the Opposition Speaker at the Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

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Retro-fitting of water sprinklers discussed at Borough Residents Forum (11 January 2018)

At the Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 18th January 2018, Agenda item 3 – ‘Borough Residents’ Forum – Report of meeting on 11th January 2018 (Paper No. 18-11)’ was discussed.

The retro-fitting of water sprinklers was discussed under section ‘Par. 2. Fire safety update (Paper No. 18-12)’ and the comments were;

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“We received a report (Paper No. 18-12) by the Director of Housing and Regeneration on retro-fitting sprinklers in high rise blocks in the Council’s housing stock and an update concerning recladding works to Sudbury House, SW18 (Southfields) and Castlemaine, SW11 (Latchmere).

The Council’s response to the tragedy at Grenfell Tower is underpinned by the absolute commitment to improve fire safety for all the residents of the authority’s high-rise stock. In accordance with expert advice this included bringing our blocks up to current new build standards through a proposed programme of retro fitting sprinklers.

In recognition of concerns raised by some leaseholders over the proposed works, the report recommends that the Council makes a proactive application to a First Tier Property Tribunal to ensure that the leaseholders’ voice is listened to and to seek a clear decision on the Council’s ability to undertake the works. Leaseholders would be encouraged to submit their views to the Tribunal and their points would be fully considered before any decision was made. In addition, the report details the revised advice from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority in regards automatic fire suppression systems and provides an update on recladding works which have commenced at Sudbury House, SW18 (Southfields) and are due to be undertaken at Castlemaine, SW11 (Latchmere).

On 6th December 2017, the Assistant Commissioner Dan Daly, Head of Fire Safety and the LFEPA, issued a Refreshed Sprinkler Position Statement to LFEPA members. The refreshed position on “Automatic Fire Suppression Systems is that the LFEPA recommend AFSS in:

Residential premises

While current Building Regulations recognise that all new residential buildings in excess of 30m height should be provided with AFSS, LFB are of the opinion that this should be extended to existing buildings and that the appropriate height is 18m in both cases on the basis of a risk assessment of the buildings. The LFB have, therefore, recommended AFSS are fitted in:

  • All new residential developments over 18m in height (which is equivalent to 6

storeys).

  • Existing residential blocks over 18m in height (retrofitting), subject to a risk based

approach that should include consideration of the vulnerability of the residents.

Schools

  • AFSS is mandatory in all new school builds and as part of major refurbishments.

Care homes and sheltered (specialised) accommodation

  • and sheltered (specialised) accommodation.
  • Existing residential care homes and sheltered (specialised) accommodation (retrofitting), subject to a risk based approach that should include consideration of the vulnerability of the residents.

Other priorities

  • All homes occupied by the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • All other residential properties which include hotels, hostels and student accommodation, over 18m in height.
  • All new London Fire Brigade buildings.”

The report in particular identifies the intention to retrofit sprinkler systems in the Council’s sheltered schemes. The Director of Resources comments that a positive Housing Revenue Account capital budget variation of £24 million was approved in July 2017 (Paper No. 17-243) specifically in relation to the installation of sprinklers in Council owned social housing blocks of ten floors and above. Should the scheme be extended to include sheltered housing properties in line with the London Fire Brigade’s updated advice, a further positive Housing Revenue Account capital budget variation would need to be recommended for approval at the appropriate time as there is presently no financial provision made.

With regards to the cladding costs at Sudbury House and Castlemaine a positive Housing Revenue Account budget variation of £6 million was also originally approved in July 2017. Due to the increase in the estimated cost of these works it is now necessary to include an additional provision totalling £12.286 million in the Housing Revenue Account framework and capital bids considered elsewhere on this agenda for approval.

In response to questions we were advised that the cost of the cladding works would not be re-charged to leaseholders as the cladding has now been determined to be defective, and as such must be removed. The Director of Housing and Regeneration explained that the Leader of the Council and the Housing and Regeneration Department have made written representations to the Government requesting assistance with the costs for both re-cladding and the retro-fitting of sprinklers. The Director added that a meeting has been organised with civil servants to discuss this issue further albeit it is possible that the Government may only be willing to offer loans, or extend permission to borrow rather than a grant.

Ms Ireland, speaking on behalf of Edgecombe Hall Estate RA, stressed that the leaseholders she had spoken to were very suspicious and concerned that the Council would not disclose the legal advice it had received to residents in relation to the retrofitting of sprinklers. The Director of Housing and Regeneration advised that despite the legal advice being privileged (as a matter of course a council would not release legal advice where this might be required to defend a council’s action in future litigation) and exempt from Freedom of Information requests, the Council had made public the clause in the standard Wandsworth right to buy lease. In the view of counsel the Council reserves the right “to do such things as the Council may decide are necessary to ensure the efficient maintenance, administration or security of the Block”. The Director added that the legal opinion is that this provision enables the Council to retro-fit sprinklers in individual leasehold flats. However, as it is only opinion, the Council proposes to make a proactive application to a First Tier Property Tribunal to test that opinion and ensure that leaseholders are given an opportunity to make their case; and to seek a clear decision on the Council’s ability to undertake the works, i.e. the Tribunal would determine whether the legal opinion gives the Council the right to retro-fit sprinklers.

The Director of Housing and Regeneration stated that he fully understood and appreciated that leaseholders and residents would have concerns regarding disruption and aesthetics associated with retro fitting sprinklers in their homes. In recognition of these concerns, officers are currently fitting out a sprinkler “show flat” which would demonstrate the most up to date and unobtrusive sprinkler systems currently available and which may be viewed by residents and elected members for their information in due course.

The Director of Housing and Regeneration stressed that safety of our residents is of paramount importance to the Council. The Director advised that the assumption that concrete blocks are always safe and that fires only spread in cladded blocks is not correct. The Director referred to the fire in Manchester on 30th December 2017 where fire had spread to multiple floors of a 12-storey block (the fire had started on the ninth floor and spread to the eighth, tenth and eleventh floors before it was brought under control); and in Belfast in November 2017 where the blaze damaged flats on the ninth and tenth floors before it was brought under control. The Director also advised of a lender now declining mortgage applications for properties not fitted with sprinklers which may raise further concerns for the Council’s leaseholders. Clearly, by retro-fitting sprinklers, the Director advised that the Council would also be seeking to protect leaseholder’s interests in their property.

Concerns were raised that based on the quality of some major works resulting in ongoing snagging, reassurance would be required that the same would not apply to the retro-fitting of sprinklers. The Director of Housing and Regeneration advised that the Council’s Major Works Programme across our estates was in the region of £30 million. He added that just because one contract was not going well did not mean that other contracts were not progressing well. The Director accepted that there would be concerns about the retro-fitting programme if residents had had a bad experience with works to their block, and stated that the retro-fitting programme needed to be and would be well managed.

In response to questions on how consultation with leaseholders was envisaged by officers, it was confirmed that the best method of how resident views could be gathered was still being considered by officers. The Assistant Director stressed that the Council wished to encourage residents to put their views forward so consultation with individuals would still take place. In addressing the Tribunal, it was suggested that views may be best presented through a ‘conduit’/a representative group putting the views of residents as opposed to individuals addressing the Tribunal. The Assistant Director was open to receiving views from Forum members on how to develop the consultation process with residents. He also confirmed that the Housing and Regeneration Department had details of those who had objected to the retro-fitting of sprinklers.

Concern was raised that as the cladding costs had increased by 100% from the original estimate of £6 million to an estimated cost of £12.286 million (to include an additional provision), would the estimated cost of retro-fitting sprinklers also increase. The Director of Housing and Regeneration advised that Wandsworth was a defined geographic area and one of the largest contract areas for the retro-fitting of sprinklers in London given the number of residential towers in its ownership. As such, the Director was hopeful that these factors would help to drive down prices given the scale of contract that would be awarded. We were further advised that currently such work represented a small market, but the industry would grow as demand increased further for the retro-fitting of sprinklers.

The Opposition Speaker of the Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor White, requested a breakdown of the additional costs for the cladding work and questioned why the increase in re-cladding works had occurred. Officers agreed that this information would be made available to Councillor White but that aspects of the information might be commercially confidential which could limit the level of information that could be made public. The Director of Housing and Regeneration advised that our consultants have explained the reasons for the increases in costs and have stated that the market has moved to a risk averse position given that such works would have a very high level of visibility and reputational profile. The Director added that the successful tenderer was still considerably cheaper than the other tenderers despite the increase in costs. The Assistant Director (Housing Management) was also able to confirm that other councils in London had also seen significant increases in costs relative to original cost estimates. In response to further questions, the Assistant Director (Housing Management) advised that the cause of the fire at Grenfell was the subject of an on-going enquiry. However, the Assistant Director stated that non-flammable products must be used to replace cladding that does not meet standards and present a significant fire hazard. We noted the contents of the report”.

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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

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Leaseholder emails Council Committee about retro-fitting water sprinklers raising queries and questions

The attendance of concerned and interested parties at the Wandsworth Borough Council Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee of 18 January 2018 were many, in fact, the viewing gallery was almost full.

The below email highlights meeting observations of one individual who emailed all of the Councillors who sit on this Committee.

 __________________________________________

 To: Councillor Aydin Dikerdem; Councillor Charles Lescott; Councillor Claire Clay; Councillor Ian Hart; Councillor Jane Cooper; Councillor Nick Cuff; Councillor Paul White; Councillor Stuart Thom; Councillor Sue McKinney;
Cc: Thayyiba Shaah;  Councillor Jeremy Ambache; Councillor Peter Carpenter; Scott Couldridge; Councillor Malcom Grimston;
Sent: Saturday, 20 January 2018, 17:04
Subject: Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee – 18/1/18 – thoughts from the gallery

Dear Councillors,

It must have been a delight to see the gallery so full of interested individuals.

The following are 12 points which are observations (which is hoped may be of some benefit) and queries which I seek clarity on please.

Please note that many residents are ‘bcc’ into this email.

  1. By the numbers……..

Shambolic, the Councillor that asked how many leaseholders could provide a view at the First Tier Property Tribunal should have known this number, in fact, all Councillors who are on this Committee should have this information to hand. It was within Council Paper 17-269 which was submitted at this very Committee on September 14th 2017. Perhaps it might assist if the numbers were shared with you all, it was within footnote #2 which stated that“Wandsworth Council has 99 blocks of ten storeys or more containing 6,401 residential flats and maisonettes – 4,043 tenanted, 1,315

resident leaseholders and 1,043 away leaseholders”. So, this means that 2,358 leaseholders can provide a view at the First Tier Property Tribunal, not the“1,400” mentioned at this meeting.

Any Councillor with some level of interest may even wish to know per ward – how many buildings are impacted per ward, the split of leaseholders (residents and away leaseholders) along with the number of tenants. Each Councillor would, I’d like to think, have a handle on the numbers within footnote #2 and how this may be of relevance to their ward? Perhaps this is taking too much interest?

Did you know that of the “99 blocks of ten storeys or more” it seems that Allbrook House is included within this 99? Just in case you were not aware this is scheduled for demolition as part of the Alton Estate regeneration so the Council might be saving some pennies?

  1. First Tier Property Tribunal (FTPT)

One of the outcomes of this meeting was that it seemed that at least two of the Councillors on this Committee appeared to have had little idea of what this FTPT is all about. If true, how can a Councillor make such decisions involving such vast sums of funds without knowing what this FTPT is and the potential challenges the Council could face?

After the planning fiasco of the portacabins (planning application 2016/5912) through which one of the ward Councillors was to provide a representation to the Council Planning Application Committee though did not as it seems that Councillor was not aware of what delegated powers Council planning officers had, it might be prudent that Councillors receive a mandatory welcome pack explaining some aspects of what they need to know, such as what can or may not be submitted to a Planning Application Committee, or that the Council is a freeholder and leaseholders, believe or not, have rights too and what these rights are.

In any event, please find a link which provides some background as to what a FTPT is – https://www.gov.uk/courts-tribunals/first-tier-tribunal-property-chamber

  1. Costs – lack of faith in Council estimates

Given that in Paper 18-12 the cost of the cladding regarding Sudbury House and Castlemaine went from £6m to £18.286m (this being the additional provision of £12.286m mentioned within this paper) then to what is the degree is there a level of confidence in the Council’s £24m allocation (Section 15, Paper 17-269) for retrofitting water sprinklers? If the costs doubled to £48m or £72m will the Council still be amenable to this endeavour?

On a much lower level, perhaps the recent example of major works for maisonettes on the Alton Estate may provide an example of why leaseholders could be sceptical of the Council’s estimates. A letter dated 20th March 2014 for “Notice of Intention – External Redecoration & Associated Repairs” was for £2,586.92. A letter only seven months later, 13th October 2014, for “External Redecoration & Associated Repairs” was for £4,864.90. That is almost double the cost within seven months. It is hoped that the Council is confident regarding the sums involved.

  1. Costs – to leaseholders

One of the 99 buildings impacted from the Manresa neighbourhood has paid the princely sum of £12,475.05 for a two bedroom flat within a 13 month period as calculated below;

2016 (paid in October 2016)

£880.00 major works

£1,152.44 for the annual service charge

2017 (paid in October 2017)

£9,446 for major works

£996.61 for the usual annual service charge

Part of the reason for regeneration in this area is due to the levels of deprivation, so how the Council thinks many of the residents in this ward  can keep emptying their pockets to pay for these works is a query that has to be posed to you?

In other words, the sum mentioned in the comment “these costs (approximately £3,000 to £4,000) will be imposed upon leaseholders with relatively short notice” (section 17, Paper 17-269) could perhaps double or triple if using the cladding increased costs as a proxy.

Referring again to section 17 within Paper 17-269 the comment “An extension beyond 48 months may draw criticism from other leaseholders facing relatively substantial bills for major works, for example in 2015/16 1,231 leaseholders were billed for major works charges in excess of £3,000” might be worth re-doing with 2016/17 in mind to focus on the costs applied to these 99 impacted buildings. 13 of the 99 impacted buildings which are on the Alton Estate have paid, or are paying, for the installation of double glazing works which means that just with this sample that circa 700 leaseholders would have easily paid over £3,000 (which the example on point 4 highlights) in service charges which stacks up heavily versus the Borough wide figure of 1,231 mentioned earlier.

Section 18 of Paper 17-269 refers to “The Council operates a service charge relief scheme in cases of hardship, with the Director of Resources having delegated authority to grant financial relief on a case by case basis, which could be accessed by a leaseholder with genuine difficulty in meeting the additional costs. This could be through offering extended payment terms to qualifying leaseholders or through a reduction in the overall amount billed as approved in Paper No.15-422”. If not familiar with the detail of this paragraph it might be a suggestion to start looking at it as there is already a lot of concern from residents regarding affording additional major work costs.

  1. Impact on tenants and leaseholders – time off work

Do not underestimate the impact of this. The very recent double glazing of the same flat referred to in section 4 has gone well beyond the two days of inconvenience that was suggested it would be.

In fact, it might be something for the Council to consider that leaseholders should recharge the Council for time off work which goes beyond the promised timescale.

  1. No challenge to Councillor Rory O’Broin regarding numbers

It was fascinating that Mr Cameron Young, the gent that provided a deputation on behalf of Edgecombe Hall Residents Association, was grilled on the numbers of leaseholders and tenants that he represented, yet no Councillor asked the same of Councillor O’Brien? It would have been interesting to understand the detail of the numbers that Councillor O’Brien was representing especially as three of the five Resident Associations mentioned in section 7 (Paper 18-12) are from St Mary’s Park.

  1. Leeds Building Society mention

The mention of Leeds Building Society not providing mortgages to tall buildings without water sprinklers needs to be taken in context. Using figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, this lender has 1% of the market for the value of mortgages outstanding as of 2016 and ranks 15th. Information on market share can be obtained from the following link – https://www.cml.org.uk/documents/largest-mortgage-lenders-2016/2largest-mortgage-lenders-2016.xlsx

  1. Leaseholders position understated

Section 7 of Paper 18-12 states the following – “There has been some resistance from leaseholders to date: objections have been lodged by five residents’ associations (Battersea High St RA (St Mary’s Park), Ethelburga Tower RA (St Mary’s Park), Andrew Reed House RA (West Hill), Edgecombe Hall RA (West Hill) and Totteridge House RA (St Mary’s Park)), a small number of individuals from other blocks and one non-resident indicating they were opposed to the Council’s decision to impose the retro-fitting of works and recharge leaseholders”.

It is very surprisingly that the Alton Estate, with 42 of the 99 buildings impacted, is not mentioned. Two Residents Associations have made representations, Cadnam Point and Finchdean House. Many leaseholders have made their views known to both Councillor Cooper and Councillor McKinney. The Alton Leaseholders has started largely as a reaction to retor-fitting water sprinklers, and currently has 60 out of the circa 700 leaseholders impacted with the expectation that this number will grow when more leaseholders become aware that, at present, they are to be charged for this (though first, they need to become aware of the water sprinklers situation as many are not familiar with it).

Furthermore, the Western Area Housing Panel of 11th September 2017 had a challenging debate around the topic.

In any event, thank you to Councillor Grimston for acknowledging the concerns of leaseholders from the Alton Estate during this meeting.

  1. Fire Risk Assessments

Apologies if I missed this in the various Council documents, though the Fire Risk Assessments of 2016 do not appear to have been mentioned. As Councillors, have any of you taken the time to review one of these reports?

Within them section 2.6.8 asks “Are sprinkler systems present?” and the response in the report is “Not required”. Bearing in mind that section 9 of Paper 17-269 states that “The standard Wandsworth right to buy lease gives the Council the right “to do such things as the Council may decide are necessary to ensure the efficient maintenance administration or security of the Block” and it is considered that this provision enables the Council to retro-fit sprinklers in individual leasehold flats. „Security‟ in this context includes safety, which properly and reasonably includes facilities and equipment to fight and prevent the spread of fire” this view, to a layman, would seem to be contradicted by the Fire Risk Assessment, unless the Council is not standing by the content of the Fire Risk Assessments?

  1. Borough Resident Forum (BRF) Vice Chair personal views

It is questionable whether the Vice Chair of the BRF is permitted to be providing personal views on topics discussed at this meeting. An answer on this query is requested please.

  1. BRF paper 18-11

Having taken a hard copy of the Agenda which contains various documents it is noticed that Paper 18-11 was not within it and therefore likely not read by Councillors prior to the meeting? Please confirm if this is the case and whether this should be the case?

If of interest, I have various emails which can be shared with regards to the time lag of placing the BRF papers online.

  1. Is all the information that is available being shared?

The meeting of this Committee on 14th September 2017 makes no reference to the letter dated 1st August 2017 sent by MP Justine Greening to Alok Sharma, MP for Department for Communities and Local Government, which raises the question about funding for retro-fitting water sprinklers and removal of cladding. The letter seems to have been sent on behalf of Wandsworth Council? MP Sharma responded on 3rd September 2017, which states that when Councils have an idea of what work is deemed essential that the starting position is that they should fund these measures. Perhaps more detail regarding the discussions concerning potential Government funding should be provided?

Given Papers 17-269 and 18-12 have been referred to above a few times, they have been added below for reference.

17-269 –https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s52192/Update%20on%20fire%20safety%20arrangements%20in%20Wandsworth%20Councils%20housing%20stock.pdf

18-12 –

https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s55013/Fire%20Safety%20Update.pdf

There may have been more points to add, and more may be added in due course, though it is hoped that the above provides some feedback which is of benefit.

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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.

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

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

Can Twitter help you get things done on the Alton Estate?

It has been mentioned at the recent meetings of both the Alton Regeneration Watch (ARW) meeting of 17 January 2018 and Alton Leaseholders meeting of 8 January 2018 how powerful the use of Twitter can be to assist with having things done. It is appreciated that not everyone has access to the internet or is on Twitter, though if people form groups then maybe one or more people can access Twitter to make the points. It is an extremely useful tool for having issues resolved.

Some examples are provided below.

The great water fall of Hersham Close 41-71. This took five months of effort  by the Hersham Close Residents Association (HCRA) to have something done and it kept dragging on. Once a video of the water fall was placed online with Councillor Sue McKinney copied into the Tweet as well as the Wandsworth Borough Council (WBC) this got resolved quite quickly. Now it might be the case that the Tweet and the sorting out of the situation are related though there was a step in attitude from WBC to get this resolved after the Tweet, perhaps it was a fluke? Have a look at the Tweet here –  https://mobile.twitter.com/AltonWatch/status/946741512842498049

A recent bust water tank on Kimpton House (surprisingly a resident of Stoughton Close mentioned this at the recent ARW meeting) perhaps this might have had a similar expediency if the water spillage was filmed and placed on Twitter?

Bessborough Road planning application (2017/6977) somehow, the application date was 12 January 2018 and the date for comments was by 5 January 2018? Clearly an error and was quickly looked into by the WBC and a response by Councillor Carpenter. Here are a couple of links which highlight this –

https://mobile.twitter.com/notwandbc/status/954003331889991681

https://mobile.twitter.com/AltonWatch/status/953976158902681600

There was a hole in Alton Road near Heathmere School. Despite ongoing mentions to WBC even during Stoughton Close/Greatham Walk Resident Association meetings it appeared that being proactive was a bit too much to ask? In the end by placing this on Twitter copying in Thames Water it was resolved very quickly – https://mobile.twitter.com/AltonWatch/status/918461886290628608

Very recent examples regarding fly tipping and a messy work site on Hyacinth Road on the Alton East show how quickly WBC responded –

https://mobile.twitter.com/AltonWatch/status/954272140504784896

https://mobile.twitter.com/AltonWatch/status/954271815060414465

Now imagine that every time there was an issue that was not being resolved quickly or being ignored. You take a picture, Tweet it and copy in the WBC and a Councillor and maybe other relevant groups. Other groups see this and then Tweet it. The situation might become harder to ignore and it might get resolved quicker?

An idea could be that each building or group of buildings on the Alton Estate have Twitter champions who make Tweets and maybe things might be done a bit quicker around here. Who knows?

It’s now up to you.

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

Allbrook House and Roehampton Library in the news

If you haven’t been keeping with the Alton Regeneration Watch (ARW) Twitter feed you may have missed the various articles about Allbrook House and the Roehampton Library in the media. The articles are listed below and each can be read if click on them;

An article by Greg Pitcher, ‘Leading architects call on council to save post-war LCC housing block’ (10 January 2018), was within The Architects’ Journal.

An Article by Geraint Franklin, ‘Allbrook House and Roehampton Library, London’ (January 2018), was within the Twentieth Century Society.

An article by Barnabas Calder, ‘Britain’s most important 20th-century housing is under threat’ (December 2017), was within the Apollo Magazine.

A reminder of what the buildings look like are below.

Alton Conservation Area Appraisal & Management Strategy

Something which didn’t quite seem to make any sense was how the proposed demolition came about given the positive comments in the past of from the ‘Alton Conservation Area Appraisal & Management Strategy’ which stated the following comments;

“There are however some buildings that do have architectural interest outside the conservation area such as Allbrook House and Roehampton Library”. (page 8)

“3.14 The shopping parade in Danebury Avenue, completed in 1959-60 and the library, in 1961, are outside the conservation area. The library has architectural interest, distinguished in part by its curved walls and undulating roof form but also by the associated (though detached) Allbrook House which seems to float above – it too has an interesting form and details, including decorative block detailing to its balconies which unifies and softens the harshness of the structure. The library was one of the last buildings in the original development of Alton West. It was designed by John Partridge of the London County Council (LCC) Architect’s Department incorporating ideas from Wandsworth Council’s library service. It was opened in September 1961 by the children’s author Noel Streatfield. There was originally a mural by Bill Mitchell in resin and plastics”. (page 12)

“4.29 Some buildings outside the conservation area have an influence on the area’s character, particularly noticeable along Harbridge Avenue, just off Danebury Road, where there are shops, the library and Allbrook House (all of which fall outside the conservation area)”. (page 19)

“6.9 Generally, those buildings that fall outside the conservation area do not have the same architectural rigour or quality of those that are within. There are however, buildings in the vicinity of this character area – Allbrook House and Roehampton Library – that are of interest in terms of their architectural presence and relationship to the Alton Estate. The presence and connection of these buildings to the north-eastern edge of the estate makes them difficult to go unnoticed – though outside the conservation area, their impact is complementary due to their applied architectural treatment and form, directly linked to the modernist principles established for Alton West, namely monumentality and originality”. (page 28)

“Boundary Review

1.3 As part of the appraisal process, the boundaries of the Alton Estate Conservation Area were reviewed and considered to be acceptable. However, during the public consultation people strongly urged the Council to extend the conservation area to include areas including Allbrook House and its green space, Roehampton Library and buildings along Danebury Avenue. At its Strategic Planning and Transportation Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 18 November 2010, the Council undertook to consider further research on this matter”. (page 44)

Redeveloping Danebury Avenue What Roehampton Wants….Labour Survey regarding previous regeneration attempt

With regards to the previous regeneration attempt on the Alton Estate, the Labour Party conducted a survey of residents on the Alton Estate and the results were published in the document ‘Redeveloping Danebury Avenue, What Roehampton Wants’. Interestingly, the Labour Party did not conduct any such survey this time around and it is wandered what the reason(s) are for not doing so, especially given that presently the ward has three Labour Party Councillors since 2014 these being Councillor Peter Carpenter, Councillor Jeremy Ambache and Councillor Sue McKinney. The feedback contained within the report stated;

“The whole council plan rests on the demolition of Allbrook House, the “landmark” block above Roehampton Library.  This is the one question where there was no majority opposition to the council plan, but a clear plurality – 45% – don’t want the block demolished. Barely a third – 34% – supported demolition and a sizeable number – 21% – didn’t feel able to give a view.  We had 21 surveys back from the parts of Danebury Avenue, including Allbrook House, under threat of demolition.  Of these, 4 supported demolition and 14 opposed it”.  (page 3)

“It’s a great shame that the Council never even considered improving Allbrook House, which contains some large properties within it with spectacular views of Roehampton.  Recladding or even more radical remodelling of Allbrook House could transform this block – the gateway to the Alton estate”. (page 3)

To highlight the “landmark” comment in pictures, have a look at the following photos.

This is taken from Roehampton High Street.

Conservation review 2010

Earlier in this article within the Alton Conservation Area Appraisal & Management Strategy there was a mention of this review within the Boundary Review comment. At the Strategic Planning and Transportation Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting (18 November 2010) the following was discussed “Background. The Council has a 5 year programme for updating appraisals of the Borough’s 45 conservation areas. In the fifth year, the conservation areas were divided into two groups. The first five appraisals were reported in February 2010 (Paper No. 10- 211) and the second and final four appraisals are being reported to this Committee”. (Paper 10-876).

What is very interesting about this is that in 2010 one of the current ward Councillors was supportive in trying to extend the Alton conservation Area to protect these buildings, as the following comments highlight (Appendix 2 to Paper No. 10-876, Consultation comments);

“Comment from Councillor Carpenter:

a) Recommends redrawing the boundary of the CA to include Harbidge Ave, Allbrook House, Roehampton Library and the green in Alton West; and the Cornerstone and low odd numbered buildings on Alton Road in Alton East for their architectural interest.

b) The Council could produce a leaflet on conservation areas and listed buildings so people understand them better.

c ) It was clear from the meeting that there is general opposition to plans for demolition of the eastern end of Danebury Ave. It should be remembered that there were earlier plans for a more sensitive refurbishment of the area which had greater support from residents”.

Allbrook House and Roehampton Listing attempt

In 2015 there was an attempt to list these buildings through Historic England. MP Greening wrote in favour of not supporting the listing though there was no such comments, supportive or not, from the three Labour ward Councillors and the question is, “why not?”.

Where are we now?

The buildings (Harbidge Ave, Allbrook House, Roehampton Library) mentioned in Councillor Carpenter’s comments in point (a) above are all proposed for demolition as part of this current regeneration scheme. With the 2018 Local Council elections coming up, one has to ask whether voting for Labour or the Conservatives will make any difference?

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

 

Council Committee discussing water sprinklers this week – change of heart? (18 January 2018)

At the Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on

Thursday, 18th January  2018, 7.30 p.m., Wandsworth Borough Council will be discussing the retro-fitting of water sprinklers. Refer to Agenda Item #4 and ‘Fire safety update (Paper No. 18-12).

From the Roehampton & Putney Heath ward, Councillor Sue McKinney attends this meeting, as does the Western Area Housing Panel (WAHP) Chair, Councillor Jane Cooper.

The below is the summary from Paper 18-12 though do have a read of the paper for the full text.

“The Council’s response to the tragedy at Grenfell Tower is underpinned by the absolute commitment to improve fire safety for all the residents of the authority’s high-rise stock. In accordance with expert advice this included bringing our blocks up to current new build standards through a proposed programme of retro fitting sprinklers.

 In recognition of concerns raised by some leaseholders over the proposed works, the report recommends that the Council makes a proactive application to a First Tier Property Tribunal to ensure that the leaseholders’ voice is listened to and to seek a clear decision on the Council’s ability to undertake the works. The Council would fund this application and leaseholders would be encouraged to submit their views to the Tribunal. Their points would be fully considered before any decision was made. In addition, the report details the revised advice from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority in regards automatic fire suppression systems and provides and update on recladding works which have commenced at Sudbury House, SW18 (Southfields) and are due to be undertaken at Castlemaine, SW11 (Latchmere).

The Director of Resources comments that a positive Housing Revenue Account capital budget variation of £24 million was approved in July 2017 (Paper No. 17-243) specifically in relation to the installation of sprinklers in Council owned social housing blocks of ten floors and above. Should the scheme be extended to include sheltered housing properties in line with the London Fire Brigade’s updated advice, a further positive Housing Revenue Account capital budget variation will need to be recommended for approval at the appropriate time as there is presently no financial provision made.

With regards to the cladding costs at Sudbury House and Castlemaine a positive Housing Revenue Account budget variation of £6 million was also originally approved in July 2017. Due to the increase in the estimated cost of these works it is now necessary to include an additional provision totalling £12.286 million in the Housing Revenue Account framework and capital bids considered elsewhere on this agenda for approval”.

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

 

10 storey block newsletter from Councillor Grimston (12 January 2018)

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: Friday, January 12, 2018 1:58 PM
Subject: 10+ storey block newsletter

Dear All,

Happy New Year. Please feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested.

The Housing Committee meeting on January 18 will consider a paper (attached) on the Council’s plans to force sprinklers on residents of its 10+ storey blocks. I don’t suppose you would choose a Council paper for fun reading any more than I would but it is actually fascinating and suggests that the wind may just be blowing in our direction, as the Council’s position slowly but surely disintegrates. In fact, part of me suspects they may be looking for a way of backing down with the minimum embarrassment.

I don’t know if it might be worth a deputation from say Andrew Reed House RA or Edgecombe Hall RA to ask the Committee about the report and press the desires of residents? You would get five minutes to put a case, the Committee could ask you questions and then they would discuss your comments in the context of the Paper. If you want more information please let me know – there was a very impressive deputation from colleagues from Roehampton last year and although it did not cut any ice at the time I believe it did sew some seeds of doubt which may be starting to find root.

Things which jumped out at me from the Paper include the following.

First, objections against the policy have been received from no fewer than five residents’ associations, including two from our Ward (Andrew Reed House and Edgecombe Hall) but also three from St Mary Park Ward in Battersea (Battersea High Street RA, Ethelburga Tower RA and Totteridge House RA), plus “a small number of individuals from other blocks”. I would anticipate further objections from Roehampton as I know many residents in the Alton are equally worried. At the last Council meeting the Leader was very patronising and dismissive, saying “a small number of leaseholders had objected” and implying that it was just a matter of money. He seemed unaware that there are also a lot of tenants who are very unsure about the whole thing. The current paper at last accepts that “some residential leaseholders are opposed to sprinklers regardless of whether they have to pay for them or not on grounds of disruption and aesthetics or because they feel they are not needed”. This is a real step forward and suggests that the work we have all been doing (helped by this being so close to a Council election) is bearing some fruit.

Secondly, although the Council is still refusing to let anyone see their legal advice re charging leaseholders for this work (even though we paid for it), it is clear that doubts are creeping in as to its validity. The Council notes that: “Although a number of other councils have announced that they also intend fitting sprinklers to their high-rise blocks, none have indicated that they are able to require residents to accept sprinklers or that they will be recharging leaseholders.” To put it another way, only Wandsworth has managed to find lawyers who say that it can force leaseholders to accept sprinklers against their will and that they can charge thousands of pounds for the privilege. Hammersmith & Fulham, for example, is intending to put sprinklers only in common areas (there may be a few exceptions but not many – in fact it is ironic that I have managed to get more information from H&F about their intentions than I have from Wandsworth!) and not to charge leaseholders for the work, so other more proportionate approaches are clearly legally valid. Given that Wandsworth has put itself out on a limb in trying to force this policy through, in my view now would be a good time for residents to seek alternative legal advice if it could be crowd-funded.

Thirdly, the Government recently announced it would be beefing up the First Tier Property Tribunal to help leaseholders in particular to defend themselves against their landlords. Wandsworth is now saying that it will make an application to the Tribunal to “ensure that the leaseholders’ voice is listened to” and to “seek a clear decision on the Council’s ability to undertake the works”. This is obviously the first opportunity to have the leaseholders’ case seriously listened to and my instincts suggest this may be part of a process to allow the Council to climb down without losing too much face.

Fourthly, the Council has already admitted that it was not true that it was imposing the same approach on Council blocks as is the case in the private sector – private sector blocks of the same age and similar size do not even have to have safety checks, let alone sprinklers in every room. The paper now admits that the claim that the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) was recommending that sprinklers (or Automatic Fire Suppression Systems, AFSS) should be fitted to all existing 10+ storey blocks was premature. The actual words used in the formal LFEPA advice of December 6 2017 are:

“We recommend AFSS in:

  • all new residential developments over 18m in height;
  • existing residential blocks over 18m in height (retrofitting), subject to a risk based approach that should include consideration of the vulnerability of the residents.”

In other words, LFEPA seems to expect Councils do a block-by-block assessment of each block and decide if residents are particularly vulnerable. This is extremely important as it chops the legs from under the ‘one size fits all’ approach which the Council has been pushing. More positively, it gives the Council a further opportunity to climb down and blame it on LFEPA’s changed advice.

It is certainly worth keeping going with this campaign – I suspect that ultimately the Council’s position can’t be maintained but they can be very obstinate even in the face of public views so we’ll have to see.

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