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

Buildings & Maintenance

The Residents’ Buildings and Maintenance Committee

The Residents Association set up a ‘Buildings’committee from the first days of the complex opening. The committee works closely with FirstPort to ensure our buildings are well maintained. 

The ‘Buildings Committee’ meets four times a year. Face to face with First Port regional and local managers.  A resident always chairs the meetings. Our aim is to ensure that our buildings, and all common areas, (lobbies, stairwells, corridors, roof terraces, garages, lifts etc) are kept in good order. The committee also considers the longer term upkeep of the buildings.

We get sight of FirstPort’s budget and their Asset Management Plan to help ensure proper measures are taken to buffer against future large item expenditures.

While FirstPort deal with day to day maintenance issues as they arise, the committee maintains its own ‘Repair and Maintenance Log’ of items raised by residents. We check on progress at each meeting. Any resident can attend this meeting or add an item to the Log.

The minutes of the last meeting are available in hard copy for residents only.  They can be obtained from the Site Manager’s office in Gaumont Tower, during office hours. Ask the concierge desk for directions or contact Gerald Bernard the Site Manager directly if you want a copy.

Future meetings and agendas will be advertised on this site. Next meeting is scheduled for June the 8th 10 am.

All residents are welcome to attend. Please contact First Port offices to express interest.

Advertisements

Buildings Glitches & Playground Voting Results

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.


Meeting Reports

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?


Past, Present, And Futures

In time order then, let’s start with the ‘Past’: Thanks to everyone who attended the recent DSRA open meeting in the CLR James Library. The meeting was kept short, as requested, but, I believe, successfully conveyed to all present where the DSRA currently stands and what we have been working on. Of particular interest was the subject of our service/management charges, which we hope to have further news on very soon as Consort complete the budgets for past years as well as the 2014/15 financial year. A report on the meeting is now available for download from the DSRA specific section of our Forum HERE (if this link does not work for you, read the first post in THIS THREAD). And while on the subjects of our forum, Consort, and budgets, at Consort’s request I have published a copy of the letter they recently sent out to all owners (there has been an issue with sending out this letter so if you are an owner but have not received it, a little patience should see new copies sent out very soon. Failing that, read it on our forum HERE). Though mostly of interest just to owners, the first paragraph includes news relevant to all Dalston Square residents: For those still unaware, Sean Stone, Consort’s on-site development manager, has left Consort and been replaced by Mr. Gerald Bernard. Obviously Gerald is going to need a little time to settle in and get to know the place (and it’s issues), but if needed he can be contacted on 020 7249 0896, or by email at gerald.bernard@consortpm.co.uk.

Moving now into the ‘Present’, we have the ongoing issue of the flooding of the sub-basement beneath phase 3 buildings, and more specifically Sledge Tower. After many emails back and forth between DSRA Chair Ben Collins, Consort, and Barratt, it seems we have finally got the the crux of the issue. It seems this is pretty much the last part of the Square yet to be handed over to Consort because of the issues of flooding in this sub-basement. This flooding has been an issue right from the early stages of construction and Barratt have a number of engineers looking at the problem, trying to find a way to rectify it. This problem only recently came to residents attention when a sewer blockage forced raw sewage into the already flooded sub-basement. Anyhow, Barratt have now pumped this area dry (and have committed to keeping it dry until a solution to the flooding has been put in place), and have instructed Consort to go ahead and have the whole area sanitized to remove the last of the residues and with them, hopefully, the last of the odours. Consort have advised us that this work will be undertaken next week, and will take a full 5 days to complete. If after next week anyone again smells a problem, do not hesitate in contacting either Consort or Barratt (phone numbers and email addresses are in the side-bar of our website homepage).

And finally the ‘Futures’: Dalston Futures (the Hackney Unites project that aims to give the local Dalston community a voice in what happens in/to Dalston). They have just received a grant to make a short film allowing local people to voice their concerns, and they want to hear what yours are. If you would like to be heard, or have experience in film making and can offer advise/help, check out all the details HERE.

That’s all for now, have a great weekend neighbours!


Summer Round-Up & DSRA Autumn Get-Together

Hello again. Here, as promised, is a general update of what the DSRA have been up to over the summer months. This report has been compiled by DSRA Chair, Ben Collins:

What’s happening with the Dalston Square Residents Association?

The DSRA  committees have been active on your behalf. We know that the first years of a new development are the time to get things right. There have been many strange accounting procedures and building glitches which we have pursued.

The following are brief reports from the two committees that have been active over the summer.

The Finance Committee

Ever since the first blocks were occupied, residents have been unhappy about the way in which Consort calculates and presents its budget. There have been a string of errors followed by increasing costs. Whether you pay for these via your rent, or directly via your service charges to Consort, these costs are passed on and there have been some inexplicable and rapid rises for some buildings.

The DSRA has this year called for Consort to publish its budget and explain it to our finance committee. We have been dismayed that, despite several meetings, the management company has still not sorted out its common electricity costs. Some buildings appear to have electricity costs running up to ten times more than others with no explanation given. As this report goes to press the DSRA has just met again with the Consort regional manager to insist the issue be sorted out.

The Buildings Sub-Committee

Progress on getting the many construction glitches around the Square sorted out is more positive in as much as Barratt appear to be taking our request seriously, and in the last few months have been pushing hard for the Square’s high standards to be maintained.

Trees have been replanted and watered, broken bricks, gutters, and paving slabs replaced, and planters looked after. Some improvement to bike storage has been agreed, although there appears to be a limit to what is possible. The sheeting on the canopy over Blue Street (the passageway between the library and Gaumont Tower) will be replaced soon. We have also worked to ensure street and gutter cleaning is maintained by Barratt, while awaiting full hand-over to Hackney Council. The Council is currently only cleaning the area at the top end of the Square, by the library.

As far as we know, two new eating establishments are expected to occupy ground floor retail spaces in the Phase 1 buildings on the east of the Square. Kitchen air extraction will need attention: Those living in Gaumont Tower are currently getting a fair dose of smell coming into their lobby and lift shafts and the current fan system is not adequate. We have pressed Barratt for a review of the system. Another issue brought to Barratt’s attention is the lack of  both windows and ventilation in the office of Consort Site Manager Sean Stone: They have promised a window and ventilator. We will continue to chase them on both of these issues.

Door security remains a worry, with occasional tampering causing the lock systems to be damaged. We have insisted on daily checks to ensure security is maintained and ask that residents report any questionable locking or damage to any front door, to the concierge in Gaumont Tower, as soon as possible.

Threat To The Eastern Curve Garden

Things are a-stirring with plans to make the land currently occupied by the Eastern Curve Garden into a thoroughfare as set out in the Dalston Area Action Plan. The DSRA met with the developer and architect some weeks back and impressed upon them that the loss of this much-loved community space and garden would be resisted by local residents. Since then, expressions of concern to Councillors have been flowing in, but it is important, if you feel the garden should be kept into the future, for you too to contact the council to express your support of the garden: There is currently no guarantee it will be there in a year’s time.

Cultural Events In The Square

Hackney Council have set up a local Forum for residents to contribute ideas and express views about what events should happen in the Square (minutes of past meetings of this group are available for download from the ‘What’s On’ section of our FORUM HERE). We note that on the week-end of the 28th and 29th of September there is the following event:

House of Amau summer weekend – Saturday 28 September, 11am – 8pm, including steel drum workshop 3pm – 4.30pm.
 Sunday 29 September, 11am – 7pm, including African drumming workshop 3pm – 4.30pm.

Look out for stalls selling a wide variety of books, including works by the African Caribbean Writers Group.

If you want to get involved (and we need resident volunteers) in helping to plan next summer’s Dalston Square events, contact Lucy McMenemy via the Dalston Square dedicated page of the Hackney Council website HERE. This link is also in our link-list in the right-hand column of our website’s homepage, and will keep you abreast of all council-planned events that are coming to the Square.

That’s all for now. I do have some info on the commercial units in the Square as well as an update from Barratt regarding their schedule for finishing up in the Square, but will save that for a post in a few days. Until then, have a good week. 😉

Oops, nearly forgot: Did I mention that the DSRA have their autumn get-together planned for next Sunday, 29th September? 5.30pm until 7.00pm followed by a fountain switch-on in the Square at 7.15. This flier says it all:

Autumn Get-tog


Sub-Committee Reports

Hello again. Firstly, thanks to those who left us feedback after the last post. You will notice that the first comment was from Lucy McMenemy, Cultural Programme Officer for Hackney Coucil, so you know your voices will been heard. Surely there must be others with an opinion?

This post, as referenced by the title, will give reports from 3 of our sub-committees: ASB, Buildings & Maintenance, and Finance.

ASB – Chris Rivinus has produced a comprehensive document, available for download from the DSRA-specific section of the forum HERE, which contains a review of the last 4 to 5 months of this groups activities, including a summary of progress against the ASB action plan established early this year, and a note from Sean Stone in response to the ASB/Security survey conducted some weeks ago now (results from this survey are also available for download in the same forum post).

Buildings & Maintenance – Jane Collins has produced a report for us on the latest meeting and issues facing this group. Again, this is available for download from the forum, HERE

Finance – Dave Eastwood and team are still working with Consort to finalise the budget for 2013/14. This from Dave:

‘The finance committee is continuing to work with Consort on the 13/14 budget, we had pre-meet with Consort on 6th June to discuss progress against outstanding actions, they were able to provide some clarification on a few items but unfortunately the 2013/14 budget is still not finalised. Consort have promised to update us on Friday 14th June with a date when this will be available for the committee to review, we will then arrange a finance committee meeting to clarify and challenge this. This will then be followed by a full residents meeting where Consort can present this budget to all residents. As soon as we have a draft budget we will arrange for this to be put up on the website.

Various members of the committee are also in the process of reviewing the actual spend since 2010 to check for any inconsistencies in invoicing and charges, this is a very detailed process so it is likely that this will take a while but will keep the RA updated with any major findings as these come to light.’

The only thing to add to Dave’s message is that contact was made on Friday as promised, and Consort have now promised to supply us with all budget info for 2013/14 before June 28th. Progress is slow, but we are getting there.

One last thing before I finish off, a new alert from Consort regarding cleaning of communal area carpeting throughout the Square in the Consort ‘Memos & Updates’ section of the forum HERE.

I believe that is it for now, but will of course keep you all up to date with progress on these and all other Dalston Square related issues as I become aware of them. Have a good week all.