Tag Archives: water sprinklers

Leaseholders need some free leasehold assistance?

Background

Leaseholders on the Alton Estate have been highlighting some various concerns in various meetings. For instance:

  1. At the Let’s Talk event held earlier in the year there was a mention regarding over whose responsibility it was for the door frame when discussing fire doors (with one gentleman claiming to have an email from the Council suggesting that they had the responsibility for the door frame?).
  2. Another example is that some residents have had double glazing installed for their property and the Council is going to install double glazing for the whole block and there are concerns over how the charge will impact them in this situation.

Related to these and other examples some leaseholders have been keen to seek advice though have little idea of who to go to. In this instance, one possible option is The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE). Note this is not an endorsement for rather, some leaseholders have used their service and have suggested that they might be good place to start for any queries. For instance, they provided feedback regarding the retro fitting of water sprinklers – https://roeregeneration.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/feedback-from-lease-regarding-retro-fitting-water-sprinklers/

Who is LEASE?

From their website it states “We provide free advice on residential leasehold and park homes law. We are an independent body, and we only advise leaseholders and park home owners. All of our advisers are legally qualified”.

For more information – https://www.lease-advice.org/about-us/

Options for contacting them

The same webpage states:

“If you need advice please start by looking on this website for the answer you need. We have lots of advice guides and Frequently Asked Questions, that are used by thousands of people every week”.

“If you still need advice you can book a telephone advice appointment. We will provide as much advice as can be fitted into a 15-minute appointment. We are necessarily limited on the length of the advice slot, but you can book another appointment, if necessary. We can also direct you to other services for further help and advice”.

“If you have a more complex enquiry, or if you would prefer a written response to your enquiry, then please complete the enquiry form”.

Newsletters

If you sign up with them you can receive newsletters which might be of interest. The following link highlights their past newsletters – https://www.lease-advice.org/newsletter-archive/

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 Feel like leaving a comment?

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Electrical testing and urgent works contract (Paper 19-254)

Background

The fire safety measures which Wandsworth Borough Council has instigated with the current attempt of retro fitting water sprinklers has resulted in another measure which adds to the costs for leaseholders and council tenants. It is up to readers to interpret the new proposed contract for electrical testing and urgent works contract and what it means for them.

Council Meeting and Papers

Paper 19-254 was first discussed at the Borough Residents’ Forum (BRF) on 11th September 2019 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=488&MId=6123&Ver=4

When it was in draft – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s68574/Electrical%20testing%20and%20urgent%20works%20contract.pdf

Then at the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee (HROSC) meeting on 19th September 2019 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=575&MId=6153&Ver=4

Where Paper 19-254 was produced – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s68804/Electrical%20testing%20and%20urgent%20works%20contract.pdf

Queries to the Council.

One Residents’ Association raised various queries at the BRF and the followed this with queries post the meeting and this is outlined below:

START OF EMAIL

“With reference to Council Paper 19-254 which was discussed at the Borough Residents’ Forum of 11th September 2019 there are asks please with regards to the queries raised on the night along with subsequent queries and they are referenced below on 15th September 2019:

Link to Paper 19-254 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s68574/Electrical%20testing%20and%20urgent%20works%20contract.pdf

Costs

The following queries were raised at the BRF and it would be most helpful if the answers could be provided in time for the [removed] meeting which takes place on [removed].

With regards to the testing costs of an estimated £533,294 per annum for testing the Council was to revert on how this figure is:

#1 – Divided between testing of tenanted property and communal areas and

#2 – With the communal areas how this divided between what is recoverable to leaseholders and for tenanted properties.

#3 – For the answers to #1 and #2 above could the please be Minuted or at least referred to as a post-meeting note.

Additional queries have been subsequently been raised be RA members which asks the following and these too would be greatly appreciated if they could be answered in time for the Residents’ Association meeting.

#3 – What will be the average annual cost of this being added to the annual service charges? This has been raised by some leaseholders which are concerned by continual increases in service charges with varying degrees of transparency.

#4 – Under which service charge cost will these charges be allocated against?

#5 – A couple of tenants have asked whether this will feed into costs for them and how this be paid for by them?

One contract

In terms of the mention of this contract being under one contract and not two, as referenced at the BFR this was raised off the back of the recent lift maintenance contract fiasco, the response was that this was going to be under one contract.

#6 – It is asked that this is Minuted along with the brief background mentioned by an RA of what had occurred with regards to the lift maintenance contract especially as the amount of blank faces around the table indicated that many attendees did not seem all that aware of what had happened. As a BRF and as a HROSC item this should be discussed as to how such situations will be mitigated in future.

#7 – Could it also please be Minuted that in response to an RA question the Council will not be requesting from the contractor a Bid Bond as this is not Council policy.

Fire safety in purpose built blocks of flats

With regards to paragraph #3 which states – “The Local Government Association (LGA) guidance ‘Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats’ (2012) recommends periodic testing of electrical installations in both tenanted properties and common parts of blocks. The guidance recommends an interval of ten years between electrical inspections and testing for individual dwellings and five years for communal areas. It is proposed the Council adopts this guidance, maintaining the flexibility to increase frequency when required particularly in relation to future changes in the regulations”.

#8 – Could it please be Minuted that in response to a question asked by an RA in terms of what was happening between years 2012 and now that tenanted property is currently checked only when the property is vacated and for communal areas this is not currently undertaken.

#9 – In addition to this could the document please be shared? It was a bit surprisingly not to see a hyperlink footnote reference to this at the end of page 2.

#10 – Could a response to the following query raised by a few members of RAs please be provided as well. This being that given the focus on fire safety by Wandsworth Borough Council since Grenfell what are the reasons for instigating this fire safety programme now rather than say in 2017 as it would seem this would be a quicker to implement measure?

Thank you in advance for the replies.

END OF EMAIL

Council’s reply

On the 19th September 2019 the Council reverted with the following:

START OF EMAIL

I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Housing and Regeneration Department with regards to your enquiries about Council Paper 19-254 discussed at the Borough Residents’ Forum of 11th September 2019. I have answered all the questions, where I can. All matters with regards to the minutes of the meeting will be considered by Democratic Services.

For ease of reference I have answered your questions as you have numbered them in you enquiry.

With regards to the testing costs of an estimated £533,294 per annum for testing the Council was to revert on how this figure is:

#1 – Divided between testing of tenanted property and communal areas and

£415,400 is allocated to the works to the communal areas and the remainder to the tenanted properties.

#2 – With the communal areas how this divided between what is recoverable to leaseholders and for tenanted properties.

As with any works to the communal areas the cost of the testing of the communal electrics and any work arising will be recharged in accordance with lease percentages. Testing of tenanted flats will not be chargeable.  Works arising maybe subject to Sec 20 consultation depending on their value.

#3 – What will be the average annual cost of this being added to the annual service charges? This has been raised by some leaseholders which are concerned by continual increases in service charges with varying degrees of transparency.

Costs from block to block will vary so we would not wish to give a figure at this stage but the testing itself will only make a small  difference to annual service charges.

#4 – Under which service charge cost will these charges be allocated against?

These will appear under the repairs element of the service charge.

#5 – A couple of tenants have asked whether this will feed into costs for them and how this be paid for by them?

All additional spending is a factor  to be taken into account when setting the rent annually.

#9 – In addition to this could the document please be shared? It was a bit surprisingly not to see a hyperlink footnote reference to this at the end of page 2.

For information the Local Government Association (LGA) guidance ‘Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats’ (2012) can be found at  https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/fire-safety-purpose-built-04b.pdf  .

#10 – Could a response to the following query raised by a few members of RAs please be provided as well. This being that given the focus on fire safety by Wandsworth Borough Council since Grenfell what are the reasons for instigating this fire safety programme now rather than say in 2017 as it would seem this would be a quicker to implement measure?

The Council has prioritised fire safety work since the Grenfell fire and has focused on issues such as dangerous cladding, the fire safety front entrance doors and communal  fire doors where risk is greater –  over matters which are recommended but not currently mandatory.

If there is any further information you require with regards to the electrical testing do not hesitate in getting in touch.

END OF EMAIL

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Water sprinklers – latest tribunal directions (5 September 2019)

The following relates to the latest Tribunal Directions from the First Tier Property Tribunal regarding retro fitting water sprinklers. Have a read and see what you think.

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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

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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

Tribunal sprinkler update (6 June 2019)

Background

Following on from the article ‘Tribunal sprinkler update (10 May 2019)’ the Council was to provide it’s response to the application for a strike out by Housing & Property Law Partnership Solicitors (HPLPS) to the First Tier Property Tribunal (FTPT) by 31st May 2019. Well, this did not happen and the Council was given an extension as outlined below.

Refer to the following link for the article ‘Tribunal sprinkler update (10 May 2019) – https://roeregeneration.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/tribunal-sprinkler-update-10-may-2019/

Email to the Tribunal – 04 June 2019 13:12

“Subject: WBC Sprinklers – Council’s response

Dear Mr Tancred,

I checked the Council’s website yesterday late afternoon and the Council’s response was not yet uploaded.

It was is now uploaded and in any event my understanding was that this should have been uploaded by 31st May?

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/14172/councils_response_to_the_applications_to_strike-out.pdf

Email from the Tribunal – Thursday, June 6, 2019, 2:36:50 PM GMT+1

“A request for an extension of time to 5pm on 3 June was made by LB of Wandsworth. The extension was agreed by a Procedural Judge”.

So, looks like leaseholders aren’t the only ones asking for extensions of the FTPT.

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

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Council’s reply to strike out water sprinkler strike out (3 June 2019)

Background

Following on from the article ‘Tribunal sprinkler update (10 May 2019)’ the Council was to provide it’s response to the application for a strike out by Housing & Property Law Partnership Solicitors (HPLPS) to the First Tier Property Tribunal (FTPT). This response is now available on the Council’s website.

Refer to the following link for the article ‘Tribunal sprinkler update (10 May 2019) – https://roeregeneration.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/tribunal-sprinkler-update-10-may-2019/

Strike out application

The Council’s response – http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/downloads/file/14172/councils_response_to_the_applications_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.

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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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Feel like leaving a comment?

Please feel free to leave a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section to let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have.

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

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

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