It has been a while since the last post but the DSRA has not been idle: quite the opposite! The issue is finding the time to not only attend meetings, but also to write reports, combine them with other info we think relevant, and then get it all out to you in a legible(ish) fashion. So happy new year everyone, and on with the backlog of news (sorry)!
DSRA Finance Committee
Uppermost in many lease-holder’s minds at this time of year is Consort’s budget for the coming financial year: This is the cost of managing the site which is paid for through twice-yearly bills to all Dalston Square lease-holders. Building on the excellent relationship the DSRA has already established with Consort since their management and accountant changes this time last year, we have been in regular meetings with them over the last few months as Consort, in the name of transparency, explained budget items as they were added into the process. That budget has now been set and Consort will be sending out bills shortly with an explanation letter attached. In the meantime, this brief report from Jane Collins (who along with David Eastwood has put in many hours on behalf of the DSRA poring over spreadsheets and questioning Consort’s accountant on budgetary line items: I am sure all lease-holders will join me in saying a big thanks to you both):
The budget for 2015/16 is now agreed and invoices for the new financial year will be sent out by Consort over the coming days. There is an overall increase in the budget of 3.8%. The increases result from staff salary increases to bring site staff closer to the London Living Wage, and the need to increase reserves in some phases owing to redecoration costs. Some savings were achieved on individual budget items including window cleaning, door entry and plant and machinery contracts.
There is an increase in the management fee for all units, from £233 to £238 in the new financial year. This is lower than the increase originally proposed by Consort, following representations by DSRA.
There is very considerable variation in the Service Charge increases per unit, with most increases between 2.8% and 10%. The most significant differences are between phases, bringing the newer phases into line with the cost per square metre of phase 1.
If leaseholders have specific questions regarding their invoice they should contact site Manager Gerald Bernard (email@example.com) in the first instance, or Charlotte Perrott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DSRA Buildings & Maintenance Committee
We also recently held our regular quarterly meeting with Consort to discuss all buildings and maintenance issues, and were pleased to have representatives of Barratt Homes and Hackney Council able to accept our invitations to attend. With the co-operation of the other parties the DSRA maintains 3 separate logs: One each for Consort, Barratt, and the Council. Over the past year all 3 logs have been shrinking steadily in size as line items have been addressed and removed from the active log, and this last quarter was no exception. The updated copies of the 3 logs along with a written report from DSRA Chair Ben Collins are all available for download from the ‘Document Depository’ in the ‘Residents Only’ section of our discussions forum HERE. If that link does not work for you, you need to read THIS thread. After reading that, register for forum membership HERE (a simple 2 minute process), then make an application HERE (again very straight-forward, just follow the other examples).
It has been said before but I will say it again: Any/all residents are welcome to attend any meeting (although space dictates numbers at some point of course). Please just let us know beforehand so we can bring you up to speed on what has been previously discussed, to save wasting valuable meeting time on repeating previous discussions. Buildings & Maintenance meetings generally start around midday (but as early as 11.00am) midweek, and can go on for a couple of hours or more. Finance meetings tend to start at 6pm, again midweek, and can go on for an hour and a half or more.
I have a few other brief items of news but will save them for a second post: These meetings are the more important updates I feel, but I do not want this post to get too long.
To be continued…..
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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.