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Councillor Grimston water sprinkler update (8 September 2019)

Background

The below is an email received from Councillor Malcom Grimston regarding water sprinklers received on 8 September 2019.

Email

START

  • From: Malcolm Grimston
  • To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston
  • Sent: Sunday, September 8, 2019, 06:19:55 PM GMT+1
  • Subject: 10+ storey news September 2019 – sprinklers update

Dear All,

MOVEMENT AT LAST

I was just noticing it is a long time since my last High Rise newsletter but in honesty nothing much has happened since May. That is changing. One point I would make is if there any more petitions ready or nearly ready to be submitted it might be helpful to do so sooner rather than later as the Tribunal looking at the case has made clear that it will take into account expressions of the views (especially) of leaseholders (technically the case does not involve council tenants but all expressions of opposition will be helpful I think). I submitted one on behalf of Sparkworth and Selworthy Houses at the last Council meeting.

Please let me know if you would like to be removed from the distribution list.

TRIBUNAL – THE NEXT STEPS

As you will recall, in an attempt to kick the imposition of sprinklers issue into the long grass during last year’s Council elections the Conservatives made a submission to the First-Tier Property Tribunal (FTT) to consider whether their policy of imposing sprinklers on all residents of the 100 30-metre+ blocks in Wandsworth, whether they want them or not, and charging leaseholders for the privilege was lawful. Since then matters have drifted and drifted, in part because of the Grenfell Inquiry taking very much longer than was first anticipated. On 21 March 2019 the FTT issued a Decision and Further Directions that further delayed the main case until 26 September 2019. However, the Tribunal subsequently received a number of applications for the case to be ‘struck out’ including an application from HPLP (Housing and Property Law Partnership, a law firm working for some leaseholders). (If a case is ‘struck out’ it means the Court has dismissed it without a full hearing of all of the evidence, in effect because the case was so weak that it had no prospect of succeeding. A court or tribunal can ‘strike out’ the whole or part of a ‘statement of case’, the document which each side produces setting out the summary of their legal arguments.) Wandsworth Council was instructed by the FTT to make any initial response to the strike-out application made by HPLP by 3 June. A copy of the HPLP application and the initial response from Wandsworth have been provided on the website. The Tribunal also received strike-out applications from five individuals and the Alton Leaseholders Association. HPLP and the others who have lodged these applications are called ‘Respondents’.

We are now told that the hearing for of the strike-out applications will take place on 11 & 12 November 2019, starting at 10:00 am, at Civic Suite, Wandsworth High Street, London, SW18 2PU. Relevant documents can be viewed at: 

  • Battersea Fields RMO, Basement, Walden House, Dagnall Street, London, SW11 5DB
  • Ethelburga Community Centre, 60 Worfield Street, Ethelburga Estate, London, SW11
  • Western Area Team Office, Roehampton Parish Hall, Alton Road, London, SW15 4LG
  • Housing Reception, 90 Putney Bridge Road, London, SW18 1HR
  • Ackroydon East TMO, 26 Montfort Place, London, SW19 6QL

 The Council now has to upload an electronic copy of these Directions on its website and send copies by first class post to all Respondents. By October 2 it has to have published any further response it may have to the strike out request: any respondent wishing to submit a reply to Wandsworth’s responses should send a copy to the Applicant (the Council) and a copy to the Tribunal by October 16. By October 30 Wandsworth has to supply hard copies of a bundle of documents (the applications for strike out; the initial and further responses from Wandsworth; any responses from Respondents to these responses). If Wandsworth or any Respondent leaseholder wishes to rely upon any ‘skeleton arguments’ (i.e. documents that summarise their case in outline, setting out the key facts and the arguments they wish to put forward at the hearing), these must be sent by 4 November 2019 to the Tribunal; (by Wandsworth) to the Respondent leaseholders; and (by any Respondent leaseholders) to Wandsworth. Wandsworth must upload any such skeleton arguments to its website as soon as it gets them and in any case by 6 November 2019.

If the strike out applications are successful then the Council’s position will fall and they will have to start listening to residents and come up with something more sensible. If the strike out is not successful then a later date will need to be found for the substantial hearing – in other words it won’t mean that the Council has won, just that it has a realistic enough chance of winning for the case to be heard fully.

Since this hearing is just about strike out I think that only HPLP, the Alton Leaseholders Association and the five named individuals will be directly involved.

GOVERNMENT RESTATES ITS POSITION

On Thursday the Government restated its position on retrofitting sprinklers, which continues to be the diametric opposite of Wandsworth’s “one size fits all and we are going to impose it whatever residents might feel” dogma.

“On the retrofitting of sprinklers in existing high-rise buildings, Dame Judith Hackitt and other expert advisers have made it clear that that is not always the right option for a building. It may well be, but other measures could be taken instead that might be more appropriate for an individual building. Dame Judith Hackitt made it clear that it was wise to proceed on an individual basis, so the safety regime that we will be introducing in legislation will ensure that there are individual assessments of buildings. Those assessments may conclude that there is a requirement to retrofit sprinklers, but they might recommend alternative arrangements instead.”

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Rt Hon. Robert Jenrick, House of Commons, September 5 2019, https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-09-05/debates/59D5871C-235C-41D2-94DB-F3AAE4D4FA86/BuildingSafety.

COUNCIL POSITION

At the last Council meeting I tried to get an update on the Council’s general approach to this issue. My key points were that since the Grenfell Inquiry would have nothing valuable to say about sprinklers until Phase 2 (which hasn’t even started taking evidence yet) has reported then the Council should drop its plans now and wait until the report was ready; and that residents’ views should be taken into account as has been the case in other local authorities. I reproduce the question and a summary of answer below (https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s67316/Council%20Questions%2017th%20July%202019%20for%20written%20reply.pdf, question 41).

 Question raised by Councillor Grimston to the Cabinet Member for Housing

 “Current Council policy concerning the imposition of sprinklers in Wandsworth high rise council blocks (as adopted in the Executive meeting of September 17 2018) requires Members and officers to “to allow directions from the First Tier Property Tribunal and recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to shape whether, and how, the programme is progressed across the Council’s high-rise stock.” Phase 2 of the Inquiry will be “focused on establishing how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition that allowed a tragedy of this scale to occur” – which may or may not include a consideration of the desirability or otherwise of sprinklers. It is expected that Phase 2 might now report in mid-2021.

  1. Does the Cabinet Member accept that, in order to fulfil Council policy as described above, no decision to impose sprinklers can be taken before mid-2021 or such point at which the Grenfell Phase 2 report is published?
  2. Does she recognise that concern at the proposals, far from being limited to ‘a few leaseholders’, is widespread throughout the properties involved, among leaseholders and Council tenants alike?
  3. In view of these developments and the timescales involved, will she recommend that the Council withdraw the proposals which are blighting so many people’s lives in order to carry out a mature and genuine consultation with residents, such as that completed by Manchester City Council (seehttps://democracy.manchester.gov.uk/documents/g289/Public%20reports%20p%20ack%2014th-Nov-2018%2010.00%20Executive.pdf?T=10, page 59 onwards), thereby ensuring that the Council fulfils the requirements of the Hackitt Report (Chapter 4) that “residents should be involved in the decision-making process for work that could impact on the safety of their homes and they deserve a guarantee that their voices will be heard if they raise genuine concerns.”

 Answer: “The Councillor correctly points out that the Grenfell inquiry is likely to take much longer than originally anticipated to issue any recommendations, interim Official or otherwise. However, following representation from affected leaseholders the Council chose to first test its authority to complete works in leasehold properties through the First Tier Property Tribunal and once it has a decision can then of course choose to review its policy with respect to the Grenfell inquiry. There is nothing to be gained by abandoning the policy at this point particularly as the support for sprinklers in high rise residential premises continues to build across professional bodies, industry experts and politically with many social landlords across the country already retrofitting these systems and not facing widespread concerns as you would suggest.

“Comparisons with Manchester Council are interesting for a number of reasons. Manchester City Council fully support the benefits of retrofitting sprinklers and have agreed that the initial installation of sprinklers will be provided to leaseholders, who opt to have sprinklers installed, free of charge. This is at an estimated cost of £4,500 per flat. There are currently 54 leaseholders that this policy will affect, the estimated cost for Manchester City Council to install sprinklers free of charge for leaseholders is therefore approximately £240,000 (54 x £4,500). Wandsworth Council plan to retrofit sprinklers in tower blocks 30 meters [sic] (10 storeys) and over. There are 100 blocks in Wandsworth over 10 storeys covering 2,367 leasehold properties (1,313 resident leaseholders and 1,054 away leaseholders), substantially higher than Manchester’s 54. If this Council were to adopt a similar approach and cover the cost of sprinklers in these properties it would be at an estimated cost of £11 million to the General Fund. So, in this example, we have a council that having considered and accepted all of the benefits sprinklers offer in improving fire safety commits to fitting sprinklers  across its stock. However, they have decided to subsidise their leaseholders from the General Fund and despite the clear advice to the contrary to allow tenants to opt in or out. To suggest such an approach is admirable, logical or indeed anything to do with the requirements of the Housing Green paper is misguided. Matters of fire safety should never become optional, landlords have an obligation to protect their residents and keep them safe in their homes and that remains a role this council takes very seriously. The final reference and quote from the Hackitt report is selective and without context could be misleading. Following Grenfell it was apparent that the resident’s concerns about works to their building which compromised their safety were not listened to and this recommendation attempts to ensure that cannot happen again. Works which are proposed with the sole purpose of actually making the building and its residents safer and which are required under current building regulations for all new high-rise blocks are of course an entirely different proposition.”

Now the point re Manchester is that, as the Cabinet Member says, that the Council, like Wandsworth, was inclined to fit sprinklers in all high rise but it carried out a real consultation which revealed many residents were opposed to the scheme. Instead of blustering on Wandsworth-style, though, Manchester chose to work in the interest of all its residents, refusing to impose sprinklers on those who did not want them. This shows, first, that it is complete nonsense to say that all flats have to have sprinklers or the whole exercise is pointless; secondly that a council which genuinely values its residents will find a way of accommodating different views rather than this rather childish ‘we have to apply the same policy specifically on sprinklers despite the Government’s position’ and put sprinkler sin absolutely every flat, which is clearly nonsense as Manchester have shown. Neither of these points was even acknowledged by the Cabinet Member. The Cabinet Member accepts that the cost expected to fall on the back of leaseholders is vast (£11 million), so big that the Council was not going to follow the clearly lawful route of spreading that cost far more fairly over residents of the Borough by using the ‘General Fund’ (i.e. Council Tax), either for part of the bill or all of it, rather than, uniquely as far as I can tell, putting all of the cost on leaseholders (I have not managed to find a single other local authority intending to do this). And the Cabinet member interprets the Hackitt Report as saying that residents should only have a right to agree with the Council when it comes to fire measures, not to disagree.

Best wishes,

MALCOLM GRIMSTON

Councillor (Independent), West Hill Ward

END

Caveats

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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

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Have you seen the application to strike out the water sprinklers?

Background

Following on from Councillor Claire Gilbert’s email of 20 May 2019 it appears as though the strike out application may have been uploaded to the Council’s website?

Refer to the following link for the email of 20 May 2019 – https://roeregeneration.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/councillor-gilbert-water-sprinkler-update-20-may-2019/

 Strike out application

Housing & Property Law Partnership Solicitors (HPLPS) letter – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/14168/housing_and_property_law_partnership_solicitors_letter

Application to strike out – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/14169/application_to_strike_out

Have a read and see what you think.

Other Council documents regarding water sprinklers

Various documents – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/download/1921/first_tier_property_tribunal_-_proposal_to_fit_sprinklers

Supporting Evidence – Proposal to fit sprinklers – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/download/1945/supporting_evidence_-_proposal_to_fit_sprinklers

Appendix 29 Supporting Evidence – Proposal to fit sprinklers – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/download/1946/appendix_29_supporting_evidence_-_proposal_to_fit_sprinklers

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 Gilbert water sprinkler update (20 May 2019)

Background

The below is an email received from Councillor Claire Gilbert regarding water sprinklers received on 20 May 2019.

Email

START

From: Claire Gilbert <clairegilbert77@gmail.com>

Date: Mon, May 20, 2019 at 3:23 PM

Subject: Sprinklers – Update + Alton Regeneration Petition – If you agree, please share and please sign?

To: claire gilbert, Fleur Anderson

Dear all,

Sprinklers Update

I write to provide you with a brief update on Sprinklers, following the last public meeting which took place on 7th May.

The meeting was well attended, and again lots of residents asked questions about the Council’s policy and how it has developed since last summer when the Council started its legal case. Councillors White, Grimston and I spoke at the meeting. I provided an update on the current status of the case, and what the next steps will be from the Tribunal.

Thank you very much to all who attended and who sent questions and comments recently. It is clear that this issue remains high on the agenda for affected residents, and it went on to dominate a quite contentious “Let’s Talk”  meeting on 15th of May in Roehampton. (The Let’s Talk meetings are convened by the Council approximately every 2 years in each ward of the Borough, and are chaired by the Leader of the Council, Cllr Govindia. Cllr Govindia received a number of very clear complaints and critiques of the Council’s sprinkler policy last week in Roehampton, and I will be following up with him as to how he will respond to the points which were made). 

The key headline  in the Tribunal case is that the Council must respond to the Tribunal by 31st May setting out why it says that its case should not be Struck Out. Many residents have not seen the Strike Out Application which was submitted by HPLP (a law firm representing a small group of residents). It had not been noted by the Tribunal, the Council or HPLP that the application would not have reached residents – yet another example of the poor communication in this case. I have now had confirmation that my request for the Strike Out Application by HPLP to be put on the Council’s website has been granted, and that the Council must do this by 31st May. If you have any difficulty finding it, please let me know, as it is important that you are able to see the legal arguments which have been made so far.

As discussed on 7th May, I made a request on behalf of residents for the next hearing in this matter to be held in Wandsworth Town Hall so that they can attend and hear the arguments, but not have to travel to the other side of London. This request has now also been granted. The Strike Out hearing is likely to be held over two days in November or December 2019, with further directions being issued by the Tribunal in September.

However, if anything different arises coming out of Wandsworth’s reply at the end of this month, I will write to you again.

Please do continue to let me know if you have questions about this case, or do contact your ward councillors if you are not in Roehampton. It is also worth writing to Councillor Govindia to make your views known to him directly, if you have not already done so. Councillor Paul White is the opposition speaker on Housing issues, and both he and Councillor Grimston, would be grateful to be copied, as would I.

Affordable Housing and Alton Estate Regeneration

I hope that you will not mind my also contacting you regarding the proposed Regeneration of the Alton Estate in Roehampton, which is likely to go ahead later this year, leading to the demolition of much of the estate and the provision of new buildings and homes on Council-owned land. This is an issue affecting the whole Borough as over £100m of the Council’s reserves are to be used for this project, and therefore it is important that residents receive a good deal in return. 

If you would rather not be contacted about this issue, that is of course fine.

For those who are interested, a petition has been created by the Labour Housing Team seeking a better deal for Roehampton in the proposed Regeneration, including more genuinely affordable housing, better transport links, more and better youth facilities and a space for community groups. If you agree that a better deal should be sought, please click on the link below and sign the petition, which will be given to the Mayor in the coming weeks when the planning application is submitted.

If you have any questions about this issue, please let me know.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/wandsworth-council-make-the-alton-estate-regeneration-a-better-deal-for-roehampton

With kind regards,

Councillor Claire Gilbert

END

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 Grimston water sprinkler update (23 May 2019)

Background

The below is an email received from Councillor Malcom Grimston regarding water sprinklers received on 23 May 2019.

Email

START

From: Malcolm Grimston <malcolmgrimston@btconnect.com>

To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston <cllr.m.grimston@wandsworth.gov.uk>

Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2019, 11:10:17 AM GMT+1

Subject: 10+ storey news update May 2019

Dear All,

DELAY

The Grenfell Tower public inquiry is running months behind schedule and the conclusions of its investigation into what happened on the night of the fire will not now be published before October (see https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/may/17/grenfell-fire-inquiry-admits-it-will-not-report-until-october). Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chairman of the inquiry, had previously told survivors that his conclusions would be ready this spring but the solicitor to the inquiry, Caroline Featherstone, said on Friday that reaching conclusions was proving “far more complex and time-consuming task than originally anticipated”. She also confirmed that hearings for the second phase of the inquiry, examining issues that led up to the fire (possibly including what role sprinklers might have played), would not start until the beginning of 2020. They had originally been expected to start this year. It becomes increasingly likely then that the Phase 2 report will not be available until 2021. There is a graphic of the steps needed before Phase 2 can start at https://assets.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/inline-files/Path%20to%20P2%20hearings%20English.pdf.

Obviously, as always, our thoughts will be with the survivors and the relatives of those who were lost, who will have to wait still longer for this report as we come up to the second anniversary of the tragedy. However, this also has huge implications from Wandsworth Council’s action against residents in imposing sprinklers. As you will recall, last September the Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HROSC) passed an amendment proposed by Cllr Peter Graham which included inter alia a decision: “to allow directions from the First Tier Property Tribunal (FTT) and recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to shape whether, and how, the programme is progressed across the Council’s high-rise stock.” The amendment was accepted by the Council’s Executive Committee on September 17 and therefore became Council policy. Phase 1 of Grenfell, which focussed purely on what happened on the night in question, did not therefore look at sprinklers and may be unlikely to comment on them – and in any case will not have reported by the time the case goes before the FTT in September. Since Council policy at present is to “allow recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to shape whether and how the programme is progressed” then it would seem to follow that no decision can be taken until 2021 – when it may be getting a bit close to the Council elections.

Anyone sensible, one might think, would simply say “ok, we introduced this scheme to put people’s minds at rest, not because of any real safety concerns (as Mr Ian Stewart, Assistant Director of Housing Management, has said: ‘To be clear, neither Members nor officers have referred to our blocks being unsafe in any way’). Now we realise it has had precisely the opposite effect so we are going to drop it and wait until we have more clarity from Grenfell Phase 2 before working with residents as to the way forward.” However, one of my Conservative contacts tells me that the atmosphere form the Council leader is simply “I’ve made the decision, I can’t admit I might have got it wrong”.

You may recall the Council’s legal representative, Mark Cooper, initially told the Tribunal that the September 2018 amendment did not change Council  policy and the whole matter could be agreed by the Director of Housing on his own. After Councillor Clare Gilbert and I wrote to the Mr Cooper pointing out that this was simply not the case he had to send a rather humiliating apology and correction, in which he felt he needed to say that he “had not intended to mislead the Tribunal in any way” – something one might have thought would have gone without saying in most circumstances. I did write to Mr Cooper offering to check any future submissions to try to avoid such embarrassment as obviously, as a Councillor, I do not want Wandsworth’s reputation to suffer any further but have not had a reply.

PETITIONS

The First-Tier Tribunal has said it will pay great attention to the views of residents. I checked with the Council and they say they have had petitions from just ten of the 100 affected Wandsworth blocks, viz:

  • Bisley House
  • Allenford House
  • Swaythling House
  • Tatchbury House
  • Kimpton House
  • Rushmere House
  • Oatlands Court
  • Tymperley Court
  • Castlecombe Drive
  • Park Court

This rather surprised me as I thought that petitions had also been submitted from Edgecombe/William Harvey Houses and Andrew Reed House in West Hill Ward. Have any others gone astray? In any case it is clear that if possible it would be helpful to organise petitions from as many of the other affected blocks as possible and we do have a time to organise and do that. I’d appreciate comments and would be happy to offer any advice or suggestions.

Best wishes,

MALCOLM GRIMSTON

Councillor (Independent), West Hill Ward

END

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 Grimston water sprinkler update (27 March 2019)

Background

The below is an email received from Councillor Malcom Grimston regarding water sprinklers received on 27 March 2019.

Email

From: Malcolm Grimston

To: News from Councillor Malcolm Grimston

Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 12:26:14 PM GMT

Subject: 10+ storey news March 27 2019

Dear All,

Please pass this on to anyone you think might find it interesting and share it with your household. If you know of anyone who might like to receive the newsletters please ask them to email me. You can follow me on Twitter @malcolmgrimston and see my occasional musings on my blog, malcolmgrimston.com. If you wish to unsubscribe please email me.

DELAY

Many residents and opposition Councillors made representations to the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) asking for a ‘stay’ of the legal process involved in the Council’s proposal to impose sprinklers on all flats in Council high rise buildings to allow us to put together a reasonable defence case. The FTT has now agreed to put the process back for a further six months. The Council has abandoned the pretence that the matter is urgent and the FTT says it is “concerned that there have been real difficulties in the leaseholders securing effective representation, in dealing with the issues of collective participation and in their ability to deal effectively with the documentation provided by the London Borough of Wandsworth in support of its statement of case. This is due to the high number of leaseholders who are respondents to the application, the fact that they are dispersed across numerous properties and the complexity of the issues in the case.” (It is also a clear implied criticism of the Council’s efforts, such as they are, to get the information to leaseholders in time.) “In the circumstances, and in the interests of justice, the Tribunal considers that compliance with the directions order of November 2018 should be suspended until September 2019. By that time it is likely that the findings and recommendations from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will be available which may assist with the further conduct of this application.” (Actually the issue of sprinklers was hardly mentioned in the Grenfell Inquiry Stage 1 – it will be looked into along with other safety issues in the second phase next year.) Given the obstinacy of the Council in not accepting that its policy, which it stated at the time was not about safety but about offering ‘reassurance’ to residents, had actually had the opposite effect and so should be abandoned this is probably the best we could have got.

Although the FTT process is confined to leaseholders I have always been struck by the numbers of Council tenants who are also very unhappy at these proposals and I am making sure that their views are not forgotten. Some local authorities, like Manchester City Council, which have actually consulted their residents, have decided to allow individual residents to opt out of their sprinkler scheme if they wish. It is rather sad: the ruling group in Wandsworth clearly could have chosen to work with our residents in coming to a position that everyone could support or at least live with, instead of setting off on a ‘winner takes all’ battle. It also demolishes the idea that every flat has to have sprinklers or the exercise is not worth it – the Council wouldn’t say that about fire extinguishers or smoke alarms, say.

LEGAL ADVICE

Last September the Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HROSC) passed an amendment proposed by Cllr Peter Graham which included inter alia a decision: “to allow directions from the First Tier Property Tribunal and recommendations made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to shape whether, and how, the programme is progressed across the Council’s high-rise stock.” The amendment was accepted by the Council’s Executive Committee on September 17 and therefore became Council policy. To be fair to Cllr Graham he made clear at the Committee that he felt the Council was wrong to have rushed into its sprinkler policy without waiting for the outcome of the Grenfell Inquiry and other studies.

Oddly the lawyer acting for the Council, Mark Cooper, claimed in a letter to the Tribunal on March 12 that this decision is ‘not a decision of the Council. It is an operational decision within the Director’s delegated authority with a view to implementation of works.” In other words, he claimed that Mr Reilly could decide for himself whether to install sprinklers without further reference to Councillors. This is of course tosh and when I raised it with Mr Cooper another letter had to go to the Tribunal (on March 13) apologising for the error and promising that “it was not intended to mislead the Tribunal in any way”. I cannot imagine for a second that a lawyer would deliberately seek to make untrue statements so the question remains: who was giving him the instructions about this and why were they so blatantly inaccurate? Whether it was deliberate or (more likely) incompetent, the effect yet again has been to tie up our time, notably that of residents who are already putting a lot of effort into this along with (particularly) Cllr Claire Gilbert and me. It is sapping to have to monitor every statement from the Council to check for the gross inaccuracies and make sure they are doing what the Tribunal requires them to do. I have written to Mr Cooper offering to vet the ‘information’ he is being given before publication as errors of this nature put the Council in very bad light and as a Councillor I clearly do not want the Council’s reputation among residents to suffer even more of a blow. I have not heard back as yet.

MY MISTAKE

I entered into what I thought was clearly confidential correspondence with the secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety – my main question was whether they thought residents had any right over their own lives and their own homes but I was of course interested in what he had to say about the safety issues. Like most APPGs, this one is in considerable part a lobby group for the sprinkler industry (which would stand to make tens of millions of pounds if the Wandsworth scheme went ahead). On the Fire Sector Federation (the trade association for the industry)’s website (https://firesectorfederation.co.uk/workstreams/all-party-parliamentary-fire-safety-rescue-group.php ) the APPG is described as a ‘workstream’ of the FSF and there is a list of no fewer than 21 commercial companies belonging to the Federation which have “recently either held events or given short presentations to the All-Party Group about their work, and the issues which are of concern”. This is not to say that everything they say is to be discounted or that the secretary is not sincere in his belief in sprinklers (he clearly is, on talking to him) but for whatever reason the secretary, without my permission needless to say, copied his reply to my questions to the Leader of the Council and the Housing Department before I had a chance to challenge him. This led to the bizarre situation of the Leader of the Council and the Assistant Director of Housing quoting from and circulating a letter written to me without even informing me beforehand that that was what they intended to do. I don’t think it has done any harm to the main debate but it was frankly annoying to think that I may unwittingly have aided the Council in its battle against residents’ interests. I regret ever getting involved in the correspondence but I guess you live and learn.

SUBMISSION

I have now put in my detailed submission to the Tribunal. I am happy to share it but at heart it boils down to whether a reasonable person signing their lease (at any time between 1982 and 2018) would have believed that the meaning of the words ‘maintenance’, ‘administration’ and ‘security’ would have included ‘imposing sprinklers’.

Best wishes,

MALCOLM GRIMSTON

Councillor (Independent), West Hill Ward

END

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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

Labour Newsletter (February 2019)

Background

The latest newsletter from Labour is here. What do you think?

No mention of the regeneration (other than it was spoken about at the Full Council), water sprinklers, pot holes, what they doing about car parking pressures………just to name a few aspects……..

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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

Seen the Alton Leaseholders sprinkler news?

Background

The Alton Leaseholders Association (ALA) has produced this newsletter. Have you seen it?

If you wish to contribute to the fund to challenge the Council’s move towards installing water sprinklers then please email the Association at – altonleaseholders@yahoo.com

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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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