A website & blog for residents (and neighbours) of Dalston Square

Air pollution

Restaurant smoke in the gym, lobby, flats- Gaumont Tower, Dalston Square

Jan 20 2016

Dear fellow residents.

This is just a short note to update you about where things stand with regard to the restaurant smoke nuisance in the Gym. Users are still suffering unfiltered kitchen exhaust.

The DSRA brought this pollution problem to the attention of the Council more than a year ago. We assumed that the matter was being taken seriously at that time however it now seems that when the Council sent ‘pollution officers ‘around to check on the ‘smell’ they couldn’t smell much and left the matter there.

After complaining to our local Councillor Peter Snell in the autumn he took the matter on. To reinforce out case  we also sent in the 120 signature ‘petition’ which many of you signed last month  (It was pinned up on wall in Gym)  -to the Council’s pollution department.

Since Councillor Snell’s involvement an ‘enforcement letter’ has been sent to each restaurant  demanding that they clean and service their filters.  Little, if anything, appears to have happened in the case of the larger restaurant however, hence the continuing gagging smells in the gym at peak cooking times.

Barratt’s responsibility as the developers

The DSRA remains skeptical about the ability of the filters, even when cleaned to cope with the output of heavy greasy cooking smoke produced by modern grill restaurants. We have therefore called on Barratt the developers to take responsibility for fitting a proper extraction system that takes the smoke up and out of the building.  In the meantime Barratt are attempting to duct cleaner air into the gym with only limited success.

Planners couldn’t  accept Barratt’s designs.

Barratt explain to us that they had already submitted plans for an extractor system but the Council planners did not like the architectural impact a large shiny  ‘duct’ rising on the outside of the building. Councillors Snell has since been advised that Planners accept that the need for effective ventilation does need to be addressed and that they are minded to prefer a distinctive “add-on” ventilation shaft to one that is disguised in the original building fabric.

DSRA continue the chasing…

It continues to be a marathon! The DSRA. have very recently  met with Barratt’s and Lambert Smith Hampton (the agents responsible for enforcing conditions of the restaurants leases) to get some immediate results re cleaning filters and some re-ducting of air into the gym.

We have also contacted the Council’s pollution officers to ask that they enforce a cleanup of the filters.  We have not yet heard back from the Council.

We do know that Councillor Peter Snell has asked the planners to reconsider their views. Barratt have hinted that they would reapply for permission for an extraction system if planners are open to changing their minds.  However frustratingly things move slowly and there are no firm plans yet for a complete extraction system!

What more can you do?

It seems that the most effective way to get action, however small is through people pressure.

The  Council seems to respond to the numbers of complaints received.  We suggest that fellow residents email  Khadine Jackson  khadine.jackson@hackney.gov.uk and Nana Agyeman nana.agyeman@hackney.gov.uk  both pollution control officers. This would ensure the matter is not shelved again. You could also contact Councillor Peter Snell  peter.snell@hackney.gov.uk to ensure the issue does not slip down his agenda.

A complaint to First Port Customer Services, who we pay to operate and maintain the gym might also help get their backing to put pressure on those responsible for sorting this matter out.   In brief we need to maintain the pressure to make things happen.

Thank you for your continuing support.

DSRA committee.


Restaurant Fire Plus Phase 1 Kitchen Ventilation

Restaurant Fire

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.