Keeping Your Doors Locked
Back in June of 2012, after a series of burglaries here in the square, I made a post to explain the system used by the thieves and remind residents to keep their apartment doors locked at all times. After what appears to be a gang operating in the exact same manner struck Sledge Tower last week, it seems it is time for a reminder. The initial problem is one I commented on in my last post: Residents who continue to allow people to tail-gate them through building entrance doors (if someone tries to follow you into your block, ask to see their fob: No fob, no entry). Once inside the building, the burglars take the elevator to the top floor, then start making their way back down again trying every apartment door as they go. When they find one unlocked, they walk in, bold as brass as if they own the place. If someone is home they apologise profusely, explaining they must of got off on the wrong floor and leave again. If no-one is home, they quickly scan for and take small, portable valuables (laptops, tablets, and phones are particularly vulnerable). In one instance 2 years ago, one resident came out of the bathroom to find they had been burgled.
So please neighbours, keep your apartment door(s) locked at all times, whether you are home or not, and keep yourself and your possessions safe. One last comment on the subject, and a response to the resident that once said to me that they did not understand why they had to lock themselves in. You are not locked in, you are free to leave any time you like: You are locking everyone else out.
Littering From Balconies
Again this is an issue that we have covered before, and again it seems a reminder is necessary. Please do not throw litter from your balcony. Mostly it seems the issue is (though not limited to) people who, rather than use an ashtray when smoking on their balconies, simply flick their ash, and eventually their cigarette butt, over the rail (or out of the window in the case of phase 1 winter gardens). Please just spare a thought for your neighbours below who have to a) keep an eye skyward for falling debris, and b) clean up your mess. Disgusting behaviour: Really disgusting.
Dalston Futures & The Eastern Curve Garden
As many of you will be aware, the latest threat to the popular Eastern Curve Garden has receded since plans for the redevelopment of Kingsland Shopping Centre have been withdrawn. But that does not mean it is safe from future plans. In an attempt to make it harder for developers for get their hands on this beautiful, community treasure, Dalston Futures are attempting to get the garden registered as an ‘asset of community value’. If successful, it would give the community a ‘community right to bid’: Should the owner wish to dispose of the land, the community must be given an opportunity to raise money to secure the land before it is sold. It does not of itself guarantee that the site will be saved and retained, but it does create an additional opportunity for the community to prevent unwanted development, and create a disincentive to developers. For more info on the campaign and how to be involved, plus their other upcoming projects, click HERE.
Two Free Tickets To Give Away
Thanks to Dalston Square resident Judith, I am in possession of 2 tickets to ‘Saturday brunch with The Guide’ (details of the event can be found HERE) this coming Saturday (Sept. 27th) at Rotorino on Kingsland Road here in Dalston (event runs from 10.30am until 1,30pm). Having purchased the tickets (an £80 value for the 2) Judith and her partner find they are now unable to attend so, rather than leave the tickets unused, they would like to give them away: Very generous I am sure you will all agree. Here then is what I will do: If you are a Dalston resident and are interested in receiving them, send an email to DalstonSquareRA@gmail.com with the heading ‘Yes Please’ and your postcode and name (just your christian name is fine) as the message. On Thursday afternoon I will select one at random and contact you for your full address so I can deliver them to you (I will only deliver them to the Dalston postcode contained in your email – collection or alternate addresses will not be allowed). This is the fairest way I can think of doing it to ensure they go to a Dalston neighbour. Good luck everyone.
Just a quick post to say your Dalston Square resident only special offer from Mussel Men can now be found in your post-box. If you decide to take it up (and I highly recommend you do), do not forget to take the card with you: You will not get the deal without it.
One last thing before I sign off: In the process of posting these cards into everyone’s post boxes, I tail-gated into 4 blocks within the square, and encountered residents in 4 further lobbies. Not a single person questioned me as to what I was doing. For your own security, as well as that of your neighbours, please question apparent post-box spammers, and ensure those attempting to tail-gate you in have an entry fob of their own. If they do not have one, ask them to leave: If they refuse, report the issue to the concierge. Foyer entrance doors are the front line of your security.
Further to my last post, I have received a statement from Consort’s on-site Development Manager Gerald Bernard, following last Fridays meeting between representatives of London Fire Brigade, Consort, Fire Design Solutions, and Nancy’s Pantry:
The cause of the fire was discussed with Nancy’s Pantry alone.
The main points of discussion centred around compartmentalisation, smoke, and operation of the smoke extract systems. The LFB inspectors were happy that there were no breaches to the firestopping, even commenting that where they would normally expect to find a couple of unfinished areas, but that ours are all finished to an above average standard. They noted the gaps around extractor ducting installed by Nancy’s pantry, as having contributed to the smoke which entered the service corridor, but believed the majority of the smoke in the service corridor entered via the rear fire escape door, which had been opened (it was thought this may have been opened by fire fighters, or Nancy’s Pantry staff).
No breaches were found that could have allowed smoke into the residential areas, and very little evidence of smoke was found in these areas, only small sooty deposits around a couple of doors and over some wall mounted lights on the lower floors of Raddon. LFB concluded that smoke in these areas must have entered via the doors as people made their way outside, and was possibly related to their own smoke extract systems, though it was unclear how and where these had been operated.
Some smoke from the service corridor had been drawn into the gym, thought to be via its own ventilation system. Which set off fire alarms in the gym, a log of which was recorded on the fire alarm panel behind the Concierge desk. It was concluded that the smoke extract systems in Raddon had operated in the correct manner, but that clearer information on their operation was needed for the future, as fire fighters at the time were unclear as to how to operate it, or whether it was operating.
It was decided that Fire Design Solutions would produce a clear and concise operation manual to be held by the Concierge, and that basic instructions will be produced to be displayed in the lobbies of each building.
All very reassuring I think you will agree. The only thing to add to this statement is regarding the question of how smoke managed to percolate through to other areas of the phase 1 complex. To attempt to solve this riddle, smoke testing will be conducted within Nancy’s Pantry to attempt to replicate a fire situation while observers monitor the movement and spread of smoke. This will be conducted as soon as possible before builders move in to repair the fire damage.
It was only after publishing my last post I realised it was the 100th post on this website since it went live back in November 2011 (on average one post every 10 days). Nearly 3 years later we now have over 750 registered followers (this includes followers of our Twitter account which is directly linked to the website), who have contributed over 120 comments to those 100 posts. We have also had our share of spam comments: To date we have attracted 23,712 spam links that have been added to our website! Fortunately the spam filter caught 99% of them leaving me to catch just a couple of hundred. Bearing in mind that registered followers receive direct emails and so have no need to visit the site, we still attract an average of approximately 600 visitors per month who make over 1000 page views between them. Total page views so far over the life of the website: Over 32,700. And here is the most amazing statistic: Thanks to inquisitive minds and the widespread use of search engines, the website has been visited by residents of 109 countries: Over half of the world total! Who knew Dalston was of such global interest. 😉
Until now the only businesses I have publicised on this website are those resident here in the square. However, my partner Christine (who runs the DSRA Twitter account) and I were recently dining out at Mussel Men, on Kingsland Road in Dalston (a 2 minute walk from the square) when we got chatting with Robin, owner/operator of the business. Conversation came around to the opening deals the businesses here in the square gave to residents, and Robin has decided he would like to do something for us also. Cards are in the process of being printed, but keep an eye on your postbox for an upcoming 2 for 1 special exclusively for Dalston Square residents. If you love mussels (or indeed oysters), you are in for a treat.
Tomorrow sees the launch of Hackney Circle, a free to join, innovative new membership scheme for Hackney residents aged 60 and over. Members will be able to take advantage of weekly special offers and events in the cafes, shops, and services around Dalston Square. All Hackney residents over 60 are invited to become free members of Hackney Circle. Members will receive regular information about events and special offers in the pipeline. Contact Lucy McMenemy for further details on 020 8356 2919 or email Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hackney Circle has been commissioned by Hackney Council and has been devised by The Decorators, a collective of designers. The launch runs from 3pm to 5pm here in the square (including the C.L.R. James Library).
As I am sure everyone is by now aware, fire gutted Nancy’s Pantry, the children orientated restaurant here in the square, early this past Tuesday morning. The fire started at around 7.30am and was attended by 6 fire tenders and 35 firemen and officers from Shoreditch, Homerton, Stoke Newington, and Islington fire stations. A dozen residents from immediately above the restaurant were evacuated as a precaution, but the fire was contained within the restaurant and fully extinguished by 9.30am. The fire, it seems, was caused by an electrical fault, possibly with a refrigerator or the socket it was plugged into: The fire brigade are investigating and will no doubt report back soon.
In the wake of the fire there have been 3 very important questions asked which I would like to address here:
Why did audible alarms not sound throughout Labyrinth Tower when the fire detectors were triggered? The answer is very simple: There are none (despite the fact that the fire warning instruction signs posted within each block are based on what to do on hearing alarms). There are of course smoke detectors with audible alarms in each and every apartment, but in public areas the smoke detectors have no alarm attached, and for a very good reason: In the event of fire, you are supposed to stay put in your apartment (unless a) the fire is in your apartment, or b) you are instructed to evacuate by fire and/or safety officials). If there were audible alarms throughout the building, people would attempt evacuation without knowing where the fire is, potentially heading in the direction of the fire. If you are unaware of the drill in the event of a fire anywhere in the square, the official fire policy document for Dalston Square is available for download at our discussions forum HERE: Please do read it if you have not already done so.
How did smoke manage to infiltrate the stairwell of Raddon Tower next door? As yet we have no answer as to how the smoke managed to cross from one block to it’s neighbour (something that certainly should not be possible), but this is being investigated and will hopefully be rectified soon: The DSRA will follow this issue over the coming weeks.
Why did the AOV (Automatic Opening Vent) system fail to clear the smoke from Raddon Tower’s stairwell? There was simply insufficient smoke for it to make it from the stairwell into any of the corridors where the smoke detectors would have triggered the system. For those not familiar with this system, check your hallway and you will see a panel somewhere in the wall labelled ‘Smoke Shaft Door’. In the event of the smoke detectors being triggered, these ‘doors’ open to reveal a large vent system. At the same time, powerful fans on the roof of the block kick in to push huge quantities of fresh air down through the stairwell, strong enough to push open the fire doors leading from the stairwell into each and every floor’s corridors, and thereby forcing any smoke in those corridors out into the vent system: Very clever. Remember that it is estimated that at least half (and by some estimates as many as 80%) of all fire deaths are due to the inhalation of smoke rather than burning.
Phase 1 kitchen ventilation
Finally our persistence in pursuing Barratt with regard an extraction system for the kitchens of the restaurants in phase 1 (the eastern side of the square) has borne fruit. Barratt have now submitted plans to Hackney Council to retro-fit a proper, above roof-line, extraction system. Currently all these restaurants simply pump their smoke and fumes into the rear service tunnel (that runs from Gaumont Tower through to Labyrinth Tower) from where it is finding it’s way into lobbies, and up into the residential parts of each block. As is usual with this king of planning application (a visual change to Gaumont Tower as the ducting will be fitted to the outside of the rear of the block), the council is giving the general public the opportunity to comment on the proposal. Residents of Gaumont Tower have received direct communication from the council regarding this, but for other phase 1 residents who have supported our campaign, not received this letter, but who would like the opportunity to comment on the application, the process can be done online HERE. All comments must be in by 26th September so get your comments in soon. For Phase 2 residents who are concerned that they will experience a similar problem when the Japanese restaurant in Thomas Tower opens for business, worry not: You already have a proper extraction system in place.
With there being the possibility of a meeting between DSRA reps and Barratt Homes senior management later in the week (Thursday), we were wondering if there are issues we need to raise with them (beyond the ones we are working on and have been mentioned or discussed either here or on our discussions forum)? We are not talking about maintenance issues (Consort’s responsibility), or anything regarding the public square (down to the council) but rather issues with the construction or structure of the blocks themselves. If there are problems you have reported to Barratt but which have not been properly addressed, please let us know asap. We are also always on the lookout for any resident who is interested in being part of the DSRA Buildings & Maintenance sub-committee. If you are interested, and able to attend occasional day-time meetings in the square (usually quarterly) please do get in touch.
Voting has now closed on the selection of the replacement playground equipment and the top 3 choices were the Balance Blocks (20 votes), See-saw (20 votes), and Wobble dish (10 votes). The full voting list can be find in the last post of THIS forum thread, which has now been passed on to Cory Defoe at Hackney Council.
….. But not a series of over 55s events held in the playground obviously. 😉
Firstly a quick reminder to those who wish to have a say in the selection of the replacement playground equipment who have not yet cast their vote. Voting will close at midnight Sunday night so have your say now (see my last post for full details or head over to my forum post HERE).
Secondly, are you over 55 and interested in taking part in a street-theatre piece that will be presented here in the Square in a few weeks time? Or do you know someone living locally that may be interested? You would need to be available from the 13th to the 16th August in order to participate (from 10am to 1.30pm the first 3 mornings for rehearsals at Forest Road Youth Centre, with the actual show on the 16th at 1pm here in the Square). Click on the first of the thumbnail pictures below for full details.
Next, a copy of the summer programme of the free events being held here in the square throughout July and August (starting tomorrow). You should of received a copy of this in your letterbox but here is a copy just in case. Click the 2nd thumbnail below to view it.
Lastly, a list of events for children and young people being put on by the library (and not just our own CLR James Library: All Hackney libraries are getting involved). Again these are all free: All your kids need to do is turn up. Click the 3rd and last of the thumbnail images below to see the list.
I have today received, from Cory Defoe (Dalston Town Centre Manager), images of 7 potential replacements for the 3 pieces that were recently removed from the square’s play area. Cory, as previously promised, would like to hear the opinions of residents as to which 3 pieces we feel would be the most suitable replacements. To see the choices head over to our forum and the thread I have created for this very purpose HERE. It would be most helpful if you could leave your selections and opinions at the forum (so they are all in one place), but if you do not have the time to register, a very simple 2 minute procedure (although anyone can read the threads, registration is required to reply to them), feel free to go ahead and leave your response here on the website (if you are reading this as an email simply reply to the email, or, if you are reading this on the website itself, click the ‘Comments’ link immediately below this post). Cory is looking to get things rolling asap so please get your opinion up as soon as you can: If Cory gets no responses, he will have to go ahead and make the decision himself. Just one thing to bear in mind: What we are looking for is equipment that appeals to young kids, but NOT to late-night revellers (who may decide to detour via the square on the weekends after turning out of the clubs for some late-night amusements at the expense of our sleep), so take that in to consideration when making your choice.
For many months now Ben Collins, DSRA Chair, has been working on the issue of phase I restaurant odours working their way up in to the residential areas of most of the phase I blocks. He has attended multiple meetings with Barratt Homes, Consort Property Management, and various different departments of Hackney Council, as well as writing umpteen emails and making many phone calls. Progress is slow, but there is progress and Ben has written us a report on just how things are going. Before that though, a little background: The problem, for those unaware of the whats and whys, is that it was not originally envisaged that all of the commercial units would become eating establishments and so no proper kitchen extraction system was put in place during construction. The system that has been retro-fitted is therefore totally unsuitable for purpose: Rather than an extraction system that vents odours above roof level (the correct way of doing it), all of the restaurants simply pump their kitchen odours in to the communal service tunnel that runs the full length of phase I. From there those odours are finding their way in to lobbies, lift shafts, up to even the highest floors, and when wind conditions are just right, in to people’s apartments. Clearly this is not acceptable, hence Ben’s work to find a solution.
Here then is Ben’s report:
The Dalston Square Residents’ Association is aware of the frustratingly slow progress on reducing the restaurant kitchen odours that pervade our buildings and flats. We are chasing Barratt Homes to install proper extraction units in the building. The DSRA will continue to take this issue seriously and is in constant touch with our councillors and Hackney Council Pollution Unit.
The good news is that Ms Jackson, officer at Hackney Council’s Pollution Unit is taking this matter seriously, and has been pursuing both Barratt Homes and the Council’s planning department (who need to agree whatever alterations to extractions systems are needed) to resolve the issue. We are told that Barratt Homes are due to submit plans for an improved extraction unit to the council’s planning department in the near future.
The Pollution Department has received many emails of complaint from residents. These emails have helped that department impress upon Barratt Homesthat there is serious concern and the matter must be addressed.
The bad news is that ‘patience’ is the name of the game. The wheels of both Barratt’s engineers and the Council’s planning department work slowly. We could be looking at months rather than weeks to see any action on this issue. However the DSRA and the Council’s Pollution Unit are on the case and will keep you updated on progress over the coming weeks and months.
Of course this does not mean that a resolution on odours is guaranteed. Pressure from residents will ensure the matter is kept alive (and the more residents the better), and you are encouraged to continue to report any high levels of restaurant kitchen odours that cause you concern, to Barratt Homes customer service department (online complaint form/020 8522 5500), as well as the council’s Pollution Unit (email@example.com/020 8356 4455).
That’s that then: We will keep you posted on progress via this website.
While I have your attention, just a couple of reminders on upcoming events. Firstly, the Crossrail2 public consultation meetings are next week (see the post over at our forum HERE for more details). It is in every Dalston resident’s interest to try to win the route over Hackney Central so your support is greatly needed. Secondly, this coming Saturday (July 12th) sees the next public event in the square. ‘A Hackney Motley’ is an event that kick-starts what the council are calling ‘Hackney Archive Residency’. If you have an interest in local history this is a must. More info can be found HERE. Lastly, while the council lays on these public events completely free of charge, they have put out a call for volunteers to assist in prepping the Square for them when needed (erecting the purpose made tent/canopy, a 3 man job, for instance). My previous call for volunteers resulted in not one single volunteer. Come on neighbours, surely we can do better than that! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can spare an occasional half hour on a Saturday, and I will pass your details on to the council as possibly being able to help (no-one is expected to be available every time). Thanks in advance.
This past Wednesday saw the latest meeting of Hackney Council’s ‘Dalston Square Culture & Community Engagement Forum’. And very interesting it was too: We learnt that there will be plenty happening this year, now that the square is finished, including a public event every weekend from early July through to the end of August. The council’s website will soon be updated to give full details of all of these events but until then here are a few teasers for you (do not take this list and it’s dates as gospel: Always check the council website beforehand to confirm the event is going ahead):
- June 22nd (the first event) – 12 noon until 5pm – Tulin Dance School Annual Picnic & Students’ End Of Year Performances. A stage and p.a. system will be installed for the performances. Other activities throughout the day including bouncy castle, clown show, outdoor games, face painting, and arts & crafts.
- Every Saturday from and including 12 July to and including 2nd August – The Square of Stoies. A series of story-based events, for children and adults alike, that celebrate the presence of the new Dalston CLR James Library. All events are scheduled to take place under the pop-up tent with a capacity of 70 people (with room outside for plenty more of course)
- July, to be decided – The previously advertised public opening and launch of Dalston Square.
- August 9th & 23rd – Visits from the Hackney Playbus, a double decker bus that has been converted into a fully self-contained play facility for the under fives.
- August 16th – Watching The World Go By by Mimbre. Mimbre, a hackney based charity supported by the Arts Council England, have created a nuanced, breathtaking, and highly skilled acrobatic theatre production using circus and dance innovatively as a physical language to illuminate human connections. The production will feature 8-12 year olds from Mimbre’s children’s workshops, along with a, still to be found, group of 50+ year old local residents. This older group will need to participate in a group of 3 workshops running each of 3 days prior to the big event, to learn and practice the routine. If you are local, over 50, and interested in taking part, contact Lina (of Mimbre) at email@example.com.
- October 6th to November 28th – The Expert View (a light-box exhibition). This is a stunning all-weather installation of 10 illuminated light-boxes displaying an exhibition of ‘Diary Drawing’ artworks by artist Bobby Baker, alongside selected work produced by others in response. The presentation was created by Daily Life Ltd., an arts and mental health charity, again funded by the Arts Council England, who aim to investigate and celebrate daily life and it’s limitations, promoting the abilities of people who have experienced mental distress in some form.
One last thing to say on this subject is that a call has been put out for volunteers to help get the square ready for these public events (like erecting the pop-up tent for example). If you live in the square or the surrounding area and can lend a little muscle on the occasional weekend during the summer, please do let me know by email at DalstonSquareRA@gmail.com. All I need is your name and a means of contact (an email address and phone number would be ideal) and I will compile a list to send on to Lucy McMenemy at the council. Thanks in advance if you can help out.
Before I finish up this post, two quick mentions for posts over at our discussions forum. The first is regarding fire safety within the Dalston Square development (also relevant to residents of other purpose-built blocks of flats) and what to do in the event of fire, which can be found HERE. The other is concerning the route of the proposed rail link Crossrail 2. After last year’s public consultations the route has changed: It will now pass through EITHER Dalston Square OR Hackney Central, not both. For full details of the proposals, access to TFl’s online survey, and details of the next round of public consultations, visit THIS thread.
There are a few things to cover in this post so if one topic is not of interest to you, please scroll through to the next paragraph.
As many of you are all too aware, the long awaited opening of the children’s playground here in the square has turned into a nightmare for many. After months of local kids having to gaze longing at the playground through wire fencing, the handover of the completed public square from Barratt Homes to the council (the only ones with the necessary public liability insurance that would allow usage of the playground) happened with little fanfare. And as those kids finally got to play on the award winning sensory-play apparatus, so the residents whose flats overlook them discovered what that meant for them: Continuous whistles and chimes at volumes that were, quite simply, extremely annoying. And not just during the day: Weekends especially have seen the noise continuing throughout the night as local clubbers and party-goers passing through the square late at night/early in the morning, find it amusing to see just how much noise they can make (maybe in their eyes some believe they are making music?). Needless to say there has been much dismay and I understand the council (both the Dalston area manager that is in charge of the square and it’s amenities, and the noise complaint team) have been bombarded with emails from disgruntled residents. Due to the usual “procedures” and red-tape, progress in addressing this issue has not been as swift as some would of liked (which I must mention is no excuse for the rudeness contained in some of the emails the council have received), but town-centre manager Cory Defoe has been on the case on behalf of residents and this morning he told me relief is high: With a little luck and a tail-wind, the 3 ‘musical’ devices (the tall, hand-pumped whistle, the whistling pedals, and the metal chime plates) will be removed before this weekend (should that not happen they will go early next week). The holes this creates will be made temporarily safe while the council consults with local parents with regard what to install as replacements. The whole process, which involves planning permission (which Cory will attempt to speed along with a retrospective application), ordering of the desired replacements (which are generally made to order), and of course installation, could take some weeks, but things will move along as quickly as possible. The original apparatus was a poor decision, but rectifying that has become a priority: Just a little more patience please. I have myself also spoken to Gerald Bernard this morning, who has agreed to instruct his night concierge team to try to reason with late night ‘musicians’. No guarantees here though as they have no jurisdiction over the council’s square, but they will try. Anyone interested in hearing the opinions of some of those affected can visit the thread that has been running in our discussions forum since the day after the playground opened, HERE.
Slight change of subject now, going back to the above mentioned handover with little fanfare. There will be an official opening of Dalston Square to the public by Hackney Council: And all residents are invited (keep your eyes peeled for invites). What exactly is happening, and when, is as yet still unknown but more details will be revealed ‘Soon’ we are told – Watch this space.
Next, is there anyone out there interested in buying an ad, or advertorial, in a print run of 50,000 copies of a free pocket guide to Hackney? The project is being run by “…a freelance travel writer working for Lonely Planet and Rough Guides…” who also “… wrote the East Hackney Cookbook, which is raising £10,000 for 2 local food charities.” If yes, check out Helena Smith’s website HERE (you can also contact her through that website).
The last topic of this posting is “Hyperfast broadband”. Do you remember THIS post I made back in May of 2012 about 1Gig internet download speeds coming to Dalston Square (and the topic’s accompanying forum thread HERE)? The same company, Hyperoptic, after being given permission by Barratt to work on one of their other developments, has given Hyperoptic the go-ahead to survey the rest of Dalston Square (phases I & II were surveyed last year to get it started) with an eye to granting them license to ‘wire us up’. First Openreach (BT’s infrastructure arm) would be contracted to run fibre from the street into block basements, where the exchange boxes will be placed. Each and every block would then receive a new copper network that any resident can be hooked up to if they wish to pay Hyperoptic a monthly fee (as with any other ISP of course). Connection to these phenomenal speeds requires that you have a modem in the cupboard by your front door. Anyhow, to pre-register for the service and receive a discounted price for the first two years, visit their website. These are not unreasonable prices for speeds like this, and no connection fees which is cool. They seem to be investing quite heavily in the hope of acquiring customers, but could do well as the first to offer the service. BT doing this themselves is looking as distant as ever (we were told back in 2012 that their paltry 60Mb ‘Infinity’ service was only 6 months away, but it has been continually delayed ever since).
That’s it for now.
Many thanks to everyone who took the time to complete our recent survey of Dalston Square residents. The responses (both paper and digital) have now been combined and analysed, and a final report produced. And it makes for very interesting reading. Overall the responses were very positive: It seems we are very happy to be living in such a beautiful development in the heart of one of the most vibrant and diverse areas of London. There are niggles of course, it goes without saying, but these can/should be addressed without too much trouble, and the DSRA will continue to work on your behalf to ensure they are addressed. Reassuring for us was the fact that the vast majority of the niggles mentioned are already under discussion: By raising them in your responses you have strengthened our hand in these discussions which should help greatly in having them addressed and remedied. The report is available for download over at our discussions forum HERE. As I say in that posting, I will be addressing all the comments and questions made in your responses, but this will take a while to work through so please bear with me on that.
And did you realise it is election season? On May 22nd we will have the opportunity to vote for our local councillors, the Hackney Mayor, and members of the European Parliament. While the Mayoral and European elections are important, the primary concern for many, given the pace of change in the area, is to ensure that the local ward councillors are prepared to speak up for, and listen to and represent the views of, the communities of Dalston. To this end, Dalston Futures (working with Hackney Unites) have arranged for local residents to have the chance to question the candidates before voting day. For full info on the multiple events they have planned see HERE and HERE.
One last thing before signing off, predominantly addressed to residents of phase 1 buildings (Collins Tower through to Labyrinth), and those that visit the concierge on a regular basis: Are you noticing restaurant cooking aromas in residential areas of buildings? Unfortunately the extraction system currently in place to remove said odours seems unfit for purpose. Rather than extract them from the buildings it simply pumps them into the service tunnel that runs the full length of phase 1. Many people are noticing odours in lobbies, and after travelling up the lift shafts they can even be noticed (sometimes strongly depending on the wind direction) in the corridors of even the top floors of some blocks. We are in discussion with both Barratt Homes and Consort regarding this matter but need your assistance to gauge the extent of the problem: While the existing system meets building regulations (according to Barratt), we feel we should not be able to smell the restaurants unless we are inside them. We have therefore agreed with Barratt that any complaints should be addressed to Hackney Council’s pollution control department for assessment. They can be reached by phone on 020 8356 4455, or preferably by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. With one more restaurant and warmer weather still to come this problem can only get worse so please do not ignore it, report it now.
Further to my last post our short, anonymous survey for residents of Dalston Square is now ready. Currently being printed it should be in letterboxes by the end of the working day tomorrow (Friday). Comprised of just 11 multiple choice questions (with options to add extra comments if you wish) it really will take just a minute or 2 to complete. This is your home, and this is your chance to voice your opinion on how it is being managed. I am aware that this website has many followers that reside in the local community but not in the Square itself, and on this occasion I ask you please ignore this posting: Our survey is for Dalston Square residents only please. I should also mention that the closing date for responses is April 15th, so there is plenty of time to respond. Please return your completed survey to the DSRA letterbox in the foyer of Gaumont Tower: It is immediately beneath box number 69.
And for those who prefer ‘electronic’, the survey can be completed right here on the website. Simply click the link below to have the survey open for you. And of course if you complete the survey here, please ignore the paper version when you receive it. Many thanks in advance to you all for your time.
Billed as ‘the largest public space created in London since the war’, Dalston Square was, right from it’s inception, planned as a space for the whole community to use and enjoy. To this end Hackney Council created the Dalston Square Culture & Community Forum, which has now been running for nearly 2 years. Under the leadership of LBH Cultural Programme Officer Lucy McMenemy the Forum’s brief was clear:
- To ensure that residents in the vicinity of Dalston Square are consulted about the cultural programming of the square.
- To ensure a shared sense of ownership of the square from all sections of Hackney’s community.
- To create an opportunity for other key stakeholders, representing cultural venues in the Dalston area, to participate in the shaping of the programme.
- To identify opportunities for linking Dalston Square’s programme with cultural activities taking place in other public spaces in Dalston, in order to ensure a complementary approach.
- To develop opportunities for Dalston Square to become a vibrant and healthy area that promotes a variety of well-being initiatives.
The Forum meets every 3 months and is comprised of: Lucy McMenemy, LBH Dalston Town Centre Manager Cory Defoe, Dalston ward councillors Sophie Linden and Michelle Gregory, and finally 7 ‘local resident’ representatives. These 7 are comprised of 2 reps each from Dalston Square and Rhodes Estate, and one each from Mayfield Close & Forest Grove Estates, Forest Road, Acer Street & Holly Street Estates, and finally Keswick Lodge & Panton Lodge.
The DSRA have had representatives on the the Forum right from the first meeting back in May of 2012, and I have been publishing the meeting minutes to our own discussions forum for everyone to peruse (minutes from all 8 meetings so far, including the latest one on March 12th, can be found HERE). And hopefully everyone has enjoyed at least some of the many events that have already been staged here in the Square over the last couple of years. Probably the most ambitious of these was the one day Christmas market held here last December.
With the Square now all but finished, and after the success of previous events, thoughts are turning to the possibility of bigger, grander events. Though still early days, a 2014 Christmas market could be one such event: If a small one day event can be a success, how about a 3 day market with double the amount of stalls including food & drink, and a sound stage for performances by local school choirs and performers (the market would also need at least a second day to make it commercially viable)? At the bottom of this post you can see the proposal document of just such an event (click the thumbnail to see it full size). Because of it’s size though, the Culture & Community Forum are looking for opinions from the wider Dalston Square residency. The DSRA have expressed concern that any such event would need to be well planned and run (with marshaling and policing if it will truly ‘fill’ the Square). Sound stage volumes would have to be monitored to ensure they do not become a nuisance to residents overlooking the Square (as several hundred residents do), and after the failings following last year’s market, cleaning up after the event would also need to be swift and thorough (and probably necessary both during and after each day rather than just at the end). If these concerns were alleviated though, we feel such an event could really put some life in to the place, drawing in visitors (along with their wallets) from across London. Surely this could only be a good thing for the local community as a whole.
By all means feel free to leave your comments here but in order to gauge opinion on this and a few other issues, the DSRA will soon be sending out a very brief (a dozen questions at most) multiple-choice questionnaire to every apartment in the development. Yes, Dalston Square is a public space, but it is also home to very nearly 600 apartments with well over 1000 residents. This is acknowledged by the council who have given us a ‘voice’ on this issue. If you have an opinion, please do share it. As I say, the questionnaires will be going out shortly, and I will be posting an electronic version here on the website for those who prefer mouse & keyboard over pen & paper.
On a completely different note, the Clowns Gallery, London’s unique show business museum and archive, currently housed in Holy Trinity Church (also known as ‘The Clowns Church) in Beechwood Road, is appealing for help. the second thumbnail below is their press release with all the details, so rather than me repeating their words, please click on that thumbnail to view it full size.
The DSRA had 2 big meetings last week and I have reports from each to share with you.
Firstly, our Buildings & Maintenance sub-committee had their regular inspection tour and meeting with Consort and Barratt. In brief, progress continues in many areas including news that the replacement canopy for Blues Street will be fitted soon. We also again received a commitment from Barratt that the matters of flooding beneath phase 3 and cooking smells in phase 1 will not be put to bed until permanent solutions have been found. With regard the cooking smells issue, the local council are to be approached by Consort to confirm that all building regs with regard air extraction are being met. Ben Collins’ full meeting report can be downloaded and viewed, as always, from the DSRA-specific section of our forum HERE. The only other thing to mention is the subject of the lifts problem in Thomas Tower. For at least the past year residents of Thomas/Burke have had continual lift outages. OTIS, the suppliers/maintainers of these lifts are now claiming that some very expensive belts need replacing at a cost (because warranties have now expired) of over £9000.00! Consort, armed with resident testimony, are arguing that this issue has been ongoing since before the warranties expired and should therefore be rectified free of charge (the belts in discussion should last for 10 years or more and so should not need replacement after just 2 years). Hopefully OTIS will come around and get this sorted out sooner rather than later.
The other meeting was the latest in a long line of meetings between Consort and our Finance group. This report, from Jane Collins, I will share with you right here (a copy will also be stored in the Document Depository over at the forum):
We have been in discussion with Consort over recent weeks regarding the 2014/15 Service Charge estimates.
Our concerns regarding the proposed 2014/15 Service Charge estimates have been:
• Previous estimates for major items had variations between buildings and phases that could not be explained
• A proposal to contract out the cleaning appeared to be very expensive
• All phases had variations in increases that suggested that the original estimates were very inaccurate
• Insurance brokerage is provided in-house
• All phases had proposed increases above inflation, with double-digit increases in phases two and three
We now feel that we have had the opportunity to challenge Consort on these points, and we are more confident that the proposed estimates are accurate. The proposal to contract out the cleaning has been withdrawn and a number of other changes have been made resulting in small savings. We have been given evidence allowing us to compare our Service Charges with other similar properties. We now have proposed estimates for Dalston Square across the phases of the development, which suggest that we are all now being charged the correct, roughly similar, amounts in comparison to each other, based on the charge per square foot.
Unfortunately the large increases in Service Charges in phase two and three seem inevitable as phase two and three charges were significantly underestimated in the first place.
The evidence of past inefficient management of our finances by Consort, particularly the failure to set a realistically increased budget last year, will make this a very difficult year. We have seen evidence that financial management has improved recently but we believe, and asked, that there should be no increase to our service charge this year.
Ground rent demands have been sent and we have been told the new Service Charge demands will be sent in the next few weeks.
When you receive your Service Charge, we urge you to make your concerns known to Consort. Individual personal responses have the greatest impact, and please use the Forum to share these concerns.
One thing I wish to reiterate is that, although phases 2 and 3 will see potentially large increases in their service charge bills when they are sent out in the next couple of weeks (phase 3 will see the largest increases), these charges are correct for a development like ours, with our amenities, in London (around £2.50 per square foot of apartment space). Yes, there have been problems with the way Consort was apportioning costs (mostly now sorted), but the biggest problem has been the way Barratt, and by extension Consort as their agents, have been underestimating and under-billing service charges for the first couple of years of each phases life. Accusations have been made (although denied) that this was a ploy to make selling the brand new flats easier. How can it be that phase 3 was so drastically underestimated when the cost of running the 4/5 year old phase 1 was already known, unless it was done deliberately?
First a quick piece of half-news: The last retail unit is now being worked on. Top of the stairs as you leave the Square heading for the rear entrance to Dalston Junction station, the last piece of the Dalston Square commercial jigsaw slots into place. Although I am still unsure of the name of the restaurant or the owner, I can confirm it is to be a Japanese restaurant. More to come when I learn of it.
Now news of a new project running in Dalston for the duration of March (and beyond?). Many of you will be aware of services like Yelp that can point you to the right bar, cafe, and/or restaurant when you want it (particularly great as a smart-phone app). How about a research tool that allows you to comment on, not just food and drink establishments but, everything an area has to offer. And the ability to read other peoples opinions of course. Below is the poster that launched the project over the weekend. In their words “… CPRE London and Commonplace have created a different way for you to share your ideas about your neighbourhood. Using your phone, home computer or other internet device, you can comment in real time, share your views, and also find out what other people in your neighbourhood think. Information is immediately available to you or your organisation…. Register now on Dalston.Commonplace.is…” A chance to get your geek on.