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

Meeting

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.


The DSRA Working With Consort, Barratt, & Hackney Council

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 (gerald.bernard@consortpm.co.uk) in the first instance, or Charlotte Perrott (charlotte.perrott@consortpm.co.uk)

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…..


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!


Updates

Firstly, we now have a venue and an agenda for this coming Thursday’s DSRA ‘Open Meeting’. The venue is to be the CLR James Library (just ask at the library reception and they will be able to point you to the meeting room), and the agenda can be seen on the flyer at the foot of this post (click the thumbnail image to see it full size). As I mentioned in my last post, of particular interest at this time is Consort’s budget for our service/maintenance charges for the 2014/15 financial year. Members of our financial committee will be present at the meeting to report back on their meeting with Consort last week where that budget was presented to us: The news is not good.

On the 11th October last year I published a post (HERE) advising of a survey Hackney Council was running in order to gauge opinion on the subject of making Dalston an SPA (special policy area). This is used to control last night licensing in areas where a large number of such licenses already exist (if you followed the link I posted in the comments beneath that post, HERE, there was a very sound argument against such a carte blanche policy). Well, in a recent council meeting the council decided to go ahead with the plan. For further reading on the subject, HERE are details on the council’s own website, and two very good reports that give some extra info and interesting stats can be found HERE (Hackney Citizen) and HERE (East London Lines).

Lastly, updates on the two new restaurants that will soon be opening in the Square. First to open will be Nancy’s Pantry (in the space that was once the Barratt sales office): Currently scheduled to open their doors at 10am on Sunday 9th February. This is a restaurant that will be focusing on children and the family so is well placed in a development the size of Dalston Square. Check out their Facebook page HERE to be teased with pictures of items from their menu. Not too far behind them, though I do not yet have a date, will be Le Ziz (in the space below the gym in Gaumont Tower). Their website is still under construction and I do not yet have a great deal of details but what I can tell you is this: It will be a Mediterranean and Anatolian ‘fine dining’ restaurant, with a designated lounge area with a more relaxed atmosphere. They have also said that they will be holding a buffet/cocktail style launch event, just before their official opening, for residents of the Square: Very exciting. More news on that very soon.

One last thing before I finish (whilst on the subject of Dalston Square Businesses), are you aware of ‘The Mayor of Hackney’s Business Awards’? These are annual awards given out to Hackney businesses and business people in various categories. One of these categories is the Peoples Choice Award, and here the winner is voted for, from a shortlist, by the public. And would you believe that two of the list of 30 businesses belong to Dalston Square residents: Fiona ‘Fee’ Eastwood’s ‘Fee Fee La Fou‘ on Bradbury Street, and husband and wife team Murat & Melek Erdal’s ‘Cafe Route‘ right here on the Square. Unfortunately you can only vote once so this could be a toughie, but please do vote and support your neighbours.

meeting flyer


DSRA Open Meeting Plus….

DSRA ‘Open’ Meeting – Thursday 6th February, 6.30pm to 8pm. Venue to be advised.

Are you free Thursday next week between 6.30pm and 8pm? And are you a resident of the Square (owner or renter)? Cool, see you at the next DSRA Open Meeting! 😉

As usual, the venue is still to be decided (it will be very local) but we have a date and time for the next ‘Open To All Residents’ meeting of the Dalston Square Residents’ Association. It does not matter if you have been to one before or not, or even that you have nothing in particular to say (although hopefully you do), come along and find out how the DSRA has been working on all residents’ behalf, learn of the challenges currently being tackled, and show your support. Items likely to appear on the agenda include:

Consort’s 2014/15 budget proposal: As owner’s costs rise, so do rents, so this is not just an owner’s issue. We will have feed-back from our finance committee on their recent meeting with Consort. The news is unlikely to be good.

Sean Stone’s replacement as Development Manager: As Consort and Barratt go through the motions of hiring, the DSRA is keen to be involved in the process. This also makes it a good time for us to assess how we feel about Consort’s ‘on site’ performance generally, and ask if changes are needed.

Outstanding buildings and maintenance issues: With final completion of the Square very close to hand there are still issues that need addressing before Barratt pack up and leave for good. What are the issues and how best do we ensure they are dealt with.

I will post again before the day of the meeting to publicise the venue. Until then, please keep that Thursday free and show your support by turning out for a couple of hours: If the Square is your home, we would love to hear your opinions.

Now to the ‘Plus’ part of the post. Hackney Unites are in the process of organising their next ‘Dalston Futures’ community meeting but in the meantime have co-sponsored an event with campaign group HOPE not hate. The event, to be held in the Arcola Theatre (ignore the Dalston Lane address if you click through to them – the venue has changed) on Feb 17th, will be an introduction to, as well as a masterclass in, community organising. Their full explanation of the event can be found HERE. It is expected that this will be oversubscribed so, to reserve your spot, check HERE.


Meetings And Merriment

The ‘Merriment’ first I think. So you have probably seen posters are now up, on each block’s notice board, for our Christmas social (in case you have missed it you can click the thumbnail at the bottom of this post to check it out). Two things. Firstly, our thanks to resident Stephen for putting together yet another great poster. Secondly, you will see on the poster that it says “Mulled wine and warm apple juice from Eastern Curve at reduced rate on presentation of invitation”. These invitations will be posted to every mailbox in the development the week before the event. Don’t forget to bring it with you.

And now to the ‘Meetings’. A report from Ben Collins, Chair of the DSRA, on last weeks regular 6 weekly meeting with Barratt Homes that turned into a high level meeting with Barratt and Consort.

Representatives of the DSRA met with both Consort and Barratt senior management on Thursday the 5th of December, at their regular 6 weekly ‘Buildings & Maintenance’ meeting, to go over the ‘log’ of issues needing attention. Here is a brief summary of what was discussed, and agreed for action.

1) The 2012-2013 budget: The DSRA Finance Commitee has long been questioning the way in which costs are established. Common electricity (lifts and corridor lighting), water charges, building insurance, cleaning ‘value for money’, and fair Concierge wages, have been some of the key issues we have questioned. After two years of pressing, Consort is getting closer to setting our service charges on the basis of sound cost analysis rather than on estimates. Given the current evidence, it seems that many residents may learn of ‘above inflation’ increases in their service charges next year. Given past experience, this may be especially true of new residents moving in to the Phase 3 buildings.

2) Flooding garage under phase 1 buildings: Barratt are calling in the original sub- contractors who may have to reseal some of the joints in the concrete foundation slab and walls. A separate contractor is looking at the leaking drains. Barratt promises that is will look into basement drainage problems with specialist engineers to ensure all drips and flooding are cured and prevented.

3) Waste air extraction from restaurants below Phase 1 buildings: Residents in Phase 1 buildings have long been complaining about smells from refuse bins, and now restaurant kitchens, permeating into the building from the service tunnel below. Barratt have accepted our concerns and agreed to install a modern extraction system, which will require a new ducting system carrying foul air up to above roof level in Gaumont Tower.

4) Ventilation for the Site Manager’s office: Sean Stone has been operating from a very unhealthy, unventilated ‘storage space’ office. A new ventilation system is being installed and should be operational by January.

5) The playground in the Square: This is holding to its original plan and Barratt says it should be open by Christmas: With Luck

We would like to thank all those residents who have helped with the work of the DSRA thus far: Together we have made an important impact on the way the Square has been built and managed. If you would like to be a part of the team, and help us going forward, please do get in touch. The best way would be via our website email address at DalstonSquareRA@gmail.com.

DSRA_XMAS_2013


Meetings – Reminding And Reporting

First the reminder: Tomorrow evening, Thursday 14th November, Hackney Unites are initiating their second community discussion about the future of Dalston. The meeting, open to all Dalston residents, is at 6:30pm at the Trinity Centre on Beechwood Road. Full details can be found HERE.

And now the report. Following last weeks DSRA open meeting, Ben Collins has produced the following for all those unable to attend:

This meeting, held in a residents flat, was for residents new and established, to have the opportunity to meet face to face with active members of the DSRA. If anyone wishes for more detail on any of the items reported below, please do not hesitate to contact us via the comments link below this posting.

The Agenda covered:

1) Service Charges and the Budget

On the basis of current predictions our 2014-15 service charges look like going up significantly. Our current grievance over Consorts inaccurate and erratic budget setting remains unresolved, and as a result we are very suspicious about the way service charges are established for each of us. A key question for the DSRA is how common electricity costs are obtained (some buildings, for example, are costing thousands of pounds more than others for the electricity to run lifts and corridor lighting). There are also questions about building insurance costs, as well as water and cleaning charges. We remain concerned that concierge wage increases continue to be held up by Consort’s inability to establish a properly costed budget. Concierge wages are we are told, lower than average for London. Over the past year the DSRA ‘Finance Committee’ has repeatedly met with Consort officers in an attempt to establish transparency on costs and income, and agree a consultative approach on levels of expenditure. However, we remain frustrated by a lack of progress on Consorts behalf in getting the costings right. Our current service charges are, in effect, based on historical budget figures along with a sum added (or subtracted for some) according to very unclear criteria. Given this situation, a fresh ‘high level’ meeting between the DSRA committee and Consort’s new Senior Operations Manager, J0-Ann Deeks, was arranged to clarify our concerns and call for urgent action. This face to face meeting was held on November the 7th with three DSRA Committee members present.

(Stop Press: The meeting with Jo-Ann Deeks on Thursday did result in a fresh acknowledgement by a senior Consort Officer that the company was not managing residents’ interests to a satisfactory standard. Promise was given of a fresh drive to focus on areas of poor delivery. There was also acknowledgement of poor budget setting practices, and poor communications with the Association and wider residents. It was acknowledged that greater support and supervision of the site management team in Dalston was needed. That the site manager was working very hard was not in question, however, he and his teem were working with an evolving situation and too often stretched to the point in which the site team was unable to maintain a good service. Changes were promised. We will see what this means in time!)

2) Buildings Maintenance and Repairs

It was noted that the long list of repair items was now shortening (however by no means eradicated!). The main issues were:

a) Restaurant foul air extraction
With the new restaurants opening the issue of foul air ventilation needed addressing by Barratt. Emails had been exchanged with Barratt about the restaurant kitchen odours and smoke that waft along the service tunnel, into lift shafts, and even into flats. The DSRA has received verbal promises from Barratt that a new ventilation system is to be installed to take odours directly out of the building and up to roof level.

b) The flood problem in the basement garage
This remains a big problem. There seems to be drips from the drain pipes running below the building in several places. Also water may be coming up through the basement slab itself. Furthermore, that water is not draining away as their are no drains at basement floor level. Water levels can prevent access to cars after periods of heavy rain. The DSRA has persistently chased this issue up with Barratt. Barratt are aware and claim they are pursuing the matter as a priority issue. We will keep on at them! Individual residents should complain directly to Barratt Customer Care (0208 522 5500). It was noted that phases 2 and 3 buildings are not well represented on the DSRA ‘Buildings Committee’. We were pleased to have a new volunteer join that committee.

Other issues on the ‘to do’ list, include sorting our bicycle security, clarifying cleaning schedules, and the provision for the redecorating of corridor and lobby walls. Warnings on unsightly balcony contents, and the provision of proper garden maintenance where also touched on. Some of these are ongoing, but need discussion and decisions to be made. Any resident who wishes to join this committee is most welcome. Contact us!

3) Christmas Social

Finally, our concern to remain a fun loving association led us to discuss a winter/Christmas social event. It was agreed that we should aim for an indoors event this year. Two members volunteered to research some indoor venues that could serve food and drink. The idea of a buffet meal in a local cafe space seemed to be favoured. Any one wanting to help organise such an event, please contact us, again via the comments section below this posting. Cafe Route is being approached as a possible venue. Watch this space!


Meeting Location Correction: Now Gaumont Tower

My apologies all, the meeting is NOT in the Library after all. It is instead to be held in Gaumont Tower. Simply visit the concierge team and they will direct you to the appropriate apartment. Sorry for any confusion.


DSRA Meeting Reminder

Just a quick reminder of the meeting taking place on Wednesday at 6pm in the library. You all know the routine by now: The meeting is open to all residents of the Square, owners and renters alike. See you there? Click the image below to see it full size.

Nov 6th flyer


Two Dates For Your Diary

Posters should be going up very soon but in the meantime here are the details of an upcoming meeting of the DSRA which, as usual, is open to any, and every, resident of Dalston Square (owners and renters alike). The location is to be confirmed (though definitely somewhere in the Square), but it will be on Wednesday November 6th at 6.30pm (until around 8pm), chaired by Ben Collins. The agenda is as follows:

1. Service charges and Consort’s budget costings

2. Building glitches & planning issues

3. The Christmas social

4. Any other business.

If you are a resident of the Square and have any interest in the above/wish to raise an issue yourself/want to see how the DSRA works, please do attend: You are not just welcome, we would dearly love for more residents to get involved.

And speaking of meetings, I have received a summary of the Hackney Unites meeting I advertised a few weeks ago. You can read it for yourselves HERE. It seems a shame that in all of Dalston only 10 people showed an interest in the first meeting, let’s hope they receive a bigger turn-out for the follow-up meeting on 14th November (and perhaps the Square can get a few representatives present?).

That’s it for now, I will let you know as soon as a location for the DSRA meeting has been set.


‘Future Of Dalston’ Meeting

We have been contacted by Hackney Unites, the organisation that put on the Dalston People’s Festival earlier in the year. Following on from that success, they are to hold an open meeting, at 6.30pm on 17th October at the Trinity Centre on Beechwood Road, to discuss the future of our neighbourhood. More specifically, they are looking to create a permanent, inclusive, community organisation in Dalston that is capable of identifying its collective needs and organising to ensure that decision-makers cannot ignore the community. This can only be a good thing, and is surely something residents of the Square need to support and be involved in. For full details of the meeting and how to attend/participate/get involved, follow THIS LINK. Following the link will also give you access to a survey they are conducting that they are asking all Dalston residents to complete. It will only take a few minutes so please do give it a go.

Think you may attend the meeting? Feel able to represent the Dalston Square Residents’ Association? If you can attend the meeting, takes notes, and report back to Ben Collins, chair of the DSRA, please drop him a line at bmcengland@aol.com.


Latest Minutes Plus…

Good morning all (and a beautiful sunny morning it is too). Just a couple of updates/items of news to share with you. Firstly, some minutes of recent meetings for those unable to attend: The Consort chaired budget meeting of 19th March (held in the library) HERE, and the DSRA meeting of 21st April (held in the Bootstrap building in Ashwin St.) HERE. There will be more news regarding the issues raised in these, connected, meetings soon, but for now the minutes will give you the gist of what is going on. (As always, these files are hosted over at our discussions forum. Simply click the highlighted link to save a pdf copy of the document to your computer for your perusal. If you are unable to access the links, read THIS, and, if you qualify, follow it’s instructions HERE.)

Next up, something all mums and dads may be interested in. This from The Trinity Centre:

Dear All

Dalston has few public play spaces and we have been working to 
improve the Wards play provision for children. Not only have we been 
arguing for the new Dalston Square to be promoted as a place for 
children and families to gather, since the Beechwood Road Street party 
and the Council Play Street Policy we are keen for more streets to be 
adopted for play on a regular basis. Working with Play Out and the 
local play streets organizer for Hackney we are hosting a meeting next 
month to inform residents and parents on how to go about organizing 
streets for play in their area.

As well as being invited to the attached event could you please be so 
kind as to publicize it to your residents and members.

For further details check out their poster below (click on it to see it full-size).

Playout


DSRA Meeting & Social

As many of you will know, at the disastrous meeting held by Consort in the library a few weeks back (a meeting at which Consort failed miserably to justify the latest proposed increases in our service charges), they promised to get back to us by mid April with answers to our many questions. Mid April is, but for a couple of days, now upon us and we have heard nothing (though in fairness we have also not received the latest bill which should have been with us by now). Where do we go from here? Ben Collins (DSRA Chair) has been weighing up our options and has come across a couple of very interesting organisations: The Federation of Private Residents’ Associations (FPRA – www.fpra.org.uk), and the Leasehold Advisory Service (a government funded Non Departmental Public Body – www.lease-advice.org). The former, a not-for-profit organisation who offer legal and organisational advice to it’s members (we would have to pay a membership fee to join in order to receive this advice) work very closely with the second and are very familiar with Consort and the problems we are encountering. I think you would agree it is perhaps time to take our grievances to the next level and see if this may be the way forward. In this regard then, we will like to call a meeting, open to all residents of Dalston Square, leaseholders and Tenants alike, to discuss these and other options and decide on a way forward. Hoping this will not take that long (we have scheduled 45 minutes for the meeting), we thought we could then break out the drinks and nibbles and have a bit of a Spring get-together: Nothing overly long or fancy, just a chance to have a chat and get to know each other a little better. Click on the thumbnail below for all the details. Hope to see you all there: The meeting is important and we need your input!

Meeting Social


Holy Trinity Planning Objection Advice

Hi all, sorry for the late notice on this one. As most of you will be aware, a group of residents from the southern end of the Square have organised themselves into a group to fight several aspects of the proposed development of the Holy Trinity School site (more details can be found over at our forum in THIS thread). To this end they have arranged a meeting with a representative from Planning Aid (website HERE), who will be offering advice and answering questions. The meeting is set for today (again, sorry for the short notice), at 2pm, in Cafe Route, here on the Square in Gaumont Tower (why not arrive nice and early and have a spot of lunch first: I can testify that the food really is very good).


Hackney Council Working On Our Behalf

In a sprawling city like London it is easy to forget that politics stays local through the borough councils. And after reading the recent reports regarding absenteeism in our own Hackney Council (see our recent Twitter posts @DalstonSquareRA) how reassuring it is to know that our representatives are listening to, and working for, residents here on the Square. For those not aware, Hackney is a Labour controlled Council, the Square is in Dalston Ward, and we are represented by 3 Labour Councillors: Michelle Gregory, Sophie Linden, and Angus Mulready-Jones (more info HERE if you are interested).

Why am I telling you all this? As many will by now be aware, plans have finally been submitted to the council for the redevelopment of the Holy Trinity School site at the southern end of the Square. As well as a doubling of the school’s capacity, 99 apartments will also be included in the proposed 10/11 storey building that will pretty much fill the whole site. Those directly affected (residents of the south facing end of Labyrinth Tower as well as the 4, soon to be 5, blocks that overlook the site from across Roseberry Place), are understandably upset that their outlooks, and more importantly light, will be seriously impacted if this project goes ahead as planned. Because of this, many have been contacting Cllrs. Gregory and Linden directly, rather than/as well as going the official route: Using the comments page on the Hackney Council Planning Department’s webpage HERE: The deadline for comments is April 15th. Because of this the DSRA (via Ben Collins, Chair) has been contacted directly by Cllr. Gregory. On our behalf she is working to arrange a meeting, in her words “…with the school and developers to which Dalston Sq. and other residents will be invited………. to which Cllr Linden and myself will aim to attend”. Cllr Gregory will be contacting me directly when this has been organised and I will be passing on the details via this website and our forum. Cllr. Gregory will be replying to all those who have contacted her thus far, but asks that residents now cease contacting her directly as all she can do is pass comments on to planning (which is not as efficient or valuable as your comments posted directly through their website). Cllr Gregory has also recommended the website of Planning Aid For London, who provide valuable information and support on planning objections. Watch this space for further details as I receive them.

Also from Hackney Council, I have again been contacted by Lucy McMenemy, Cultural Programme Officer, with an invitation to all residents to the next public event to be held here in the C.L.R. James Library, the public space of the Square, and the Eastern Curve Garden. Hackney Wow! is a new kids’ online guide to all the fun stuff they can get up to in the local area, created by pupils at Rushmore Primary School. The planned events, on Wednesday 27th March, are to publicise the launch of this new website. As part of this, Dalston Square will be taken over by Hoxton Hall’s street performers: Cool. For full details of all that is planned see the flyer below (click on the thumbnail to see the full size image), and check out their website at hackneywow.co.uk.

One last thing before I leave you in peace: The minutes of the latest meeting of the Dalston Lane Community Working Group are now available for download from the Document Depository over at the forum HERE. Of particular interest at the meeting was the latest schedule, from Barrat Homes, for completion of every aspect of Dalston Square: Definitely worth a look. And as I always say with links to that section of the forum (the hidden, DSRA specific section), if it will not let you in you need to read the post titled ‘Please Read this…….’ HERE.

hackneywow


Consort Meeting Reminder

Just a quick reminder that the meeting, arranged by Consort to explain the continuing rise in our annual service charges, is this evening at 6.30pm in the C.L.R. James Library, here in the Square. This is your opportunity to hear what Consort have to say, and to put your questions directly to the team who calculate these charges. As owners you need to be there to hear why our charges will rise again this coming financial year (2013/14) despite rises, in some cases, of close to 300% over the last 4 years (based on actual charges for 2012/13 against estimates given at time of purchase). As renters you need to be there to support owners, as continued cost increases will inevitably lead to higher rents. I realise the timing may be awkward for some who will still be commuting home at that time of the early evening, but please attend if you can.


Updates To Previous Posts

Hi all, hope this post finds you well. The first item is not so much an update as a reiteration. You may have noticed Sean Stone’s note on the notice boards, and should of received your letter from Consort, regarding next week’s meeting, called by Consort, to explain to us all the reasons for the rises in the coming year’s service charges. (Regarding the letter, please note there is a mistake contained therein: Charges will rise from the current range of £900-£3800, depending on block and size, to a range of £1000-£4000. Not, as it is poorly written, an increase of £1000-£4000). Those of you registered with the DSRA (via the forum or by attending our regular meetings) will have today received my email but I will again publish here a note from Ben Collins, Chair of the DSRA, regarding this meeting:

Service Charge increases 2013- 2014
Consort Meeting 
Tuesday March 19th
6.30 pm
CLR James Library 
Some of you will be aware that our Service Charges are due to increase again this April.
In some cases, we the Residents Association believe, these could be very significant. (From our estimates this could possibly be more than 25% in the case of some buildings)
Leaseholders received a letter this week from Consort Property Management (dated March 12th), which is somewhat confusing. It describes ‘an increase of between £1000 and £4000 per apartment… dependent on the block’.
If these figures are correct, they are alarming. They do not reflect the provisional figures the DSRA committee was given in a recent budget review meeting with Consort, but they do confirm the need to attend the meeting next Tuesday, to ask questions.
For the past three years the Residents’ Association has asked for greater transparency in budgeting and more accurate predictive information for Service Charges for each apartment, to be sent out well in advance of the new financial year. This is to avoid the surprises many of us have had in past years from late notices of increases, based on unexplained or questionable cost increases in running our buildings.
The increase in Service Charges will impact on ALL residents including tenants.
We are very concerned about the confused message from Consort and hope that as many residents as possible will attend the meeting on Tuesday March 19th, at 6:30 in the library. We need a strong showing to impress upon Consort that we expect better from their financial management, and better value for money for their Service Charges. If you can, please come to the meeting to make your case.
Ben Collins
Chair
Dalston Square Residents’ Association
I cannot stress enough how important it is for as many residents as possible to attend this meeting. And that includes renters as well as owners: If costs continue to rise for owners, eventually rents will increase to compensate.
Next, an update on the proposed development of the Holy Trinity School. Further to my announcement HERE (down near the bottom of the post), the plans have now been submitted to Hackney Council. There is a forum thread discussing this issue in depth HERE. Anyone wishing to object to this development can do so on the Hackney Council website HERE.
Lastly an update to my post including details of Land of Kings (HERE, second paragraph). Nick has sent through a copy of their event poster and full event details which I have included below. Click each thumbnail to see the full size version. Further details on the family oriented Land of Kids will follow.
poster pg1 pg2 pg3

A Bit Of This And…..

Quite a lot to tell you all about so I have used our forum for all the details. I will summarise each topic here and link you through to the forum to get the full story.

First off, some more meeting minutes, this time from the Finance Sub-committee. These from 2 meetings held so far with regard our Consort service charges for 2013/14: HERE and HERE. It is not good news I am afraid. If you have difficulty with those links, see my last website post where this is addressed (HERE, second to last sentence of the first paragraph).

Next up, one for all you Tweeters out there: We have long had a Twitter account but it hasn’t been used in an age and I have been unable to track down whoever controls it. So a new one has been created: @DalstonSquareRA. Christine (Chair of the RA’s Social Sub-Committee, and my better half) created it and will monitor it. Any responsible persons who wish to tweet relevant info in the name of the RA should contact her for the account password. Please do so via the forum.

Next, some good news from Bootstrap, our neighbours over in Ashwin Street (owners of the roof garden over there among other things): They are changing the programme of how the roof garden will be used, and offering us a place to hold our DSRA meetings free of charge (rather than the £50 the library charge. More HERE.

Just 2 more items, and they are loosely connected. The first of the these is regarding a couple of evenings in May/June when The lost Picture Show are hoping to screen a couple of free to attend movies here in the Square. The question is, will there be objections? Details HERE. And last of all, a couple of current licence applications currently with Hackney Council. I do not foresee any issues with one of them (the Council applying to itself to run free events in the Square for the enjoyment of all), the other though could well garner quite a bit of  opposition. Again a forum link, all the details HERE.

That’s it for now. I wish you all a great weekend, and please do pop over to the forum to share your thoughts on all the issues posted.


Lots Of Minutes….. But Not An Hour.

Lots of meeting minutes to share with you, all posted over at the forum. Firstly, from a meeting of the Dalston Lane Community Working Group Ben Collins (DSRA Chair) and I attended back in December HERE. Secondly, from a meeting of the DSRA’s Buildings Maintenance sub-committee meeting with Barrat and Consort on January 10th HERE. Thirdly, from the DSRA general meeting of January 10th HERE. Lastly, sent to me by Lucy McMenemy of Hackney Council, minutes from the meeting of the Culture and Community Engagement Forum meeting for Dalston Square that was held on January 16th HERE (scroll down to my last entry on the page). As always, simply click the highlighted link to save a pdf copy of the document to your computer for your perusal. If you are unable to access the first three links above, read THIS, and, if you qualify, follow it’s instructions HERE. Just a thought (which led to my post title above); If you have minutes from 60 meetings, do you have an hour? 🙂

One last thing before leaving you all in peace. I have been contacted by Nick Griffiths of Land Of Kings (www.landofkings.co.uk) organisers of an annual Dalston music and arts festival. Let me share his email with you:

The fifth Land of Kings (2013) will take place on Sunday May 5th and we will also be debuting a new festival the following day (Monday 6th) aimed at local families, to be called “Land of Kids”.  Both festivals are collaborations with a number of local artistic and cultural venues such as Arcola Theatre, Bootstrap Company (including Print House Gallery, The Bunker and Dalston Roofpark) and Café Oto.  The night time part of the programme also includes venues across the neighbourhood such as Vortex Jazz Club, The Alibi, Servant Jazz Quarters, Rio Cinema, Birthdays, Shacklewell Arms etc.
In previous years the festival has taken place largely in the area’s indoor music and arts venues as well as a few temporary event spaces for which we have applied for Temporary Events Notices (TEN).   We are planning an outdoor element to the festival this year, on Ashwin Street and in Abbot Street car park,  and for that we’re required to apply for a temporary Premises License as the number of people we are expecting is more than 499 (the limit for running an event under a TEN).
As part of the planning for this year’s event we wanted to check in with local residents groups to share our plans as well as what we will be doing to limit the impact on the area and work with local people to make it as successful and smooth running an event as possible for all.  I wondered if you’d be able to share this email and the attached site plan with your respective groups.  The main part of our license application pertains to the car park at the end of Abbot Street where we’re hoping to build a temporary live music stage, to run in the afternoon until 10pm on Sunday 5th May, and until 7pm on Monday 6th May.
The site plan is attached below: click on the thumbnail image to see the full-size version. Is it just me or does this sound really cool? More details will follow when finalised. Enjoy the rest of your weekend folks.
Land of Kings Site Plan

Happy New Year!

First things first. a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013 to you all. I have a bunch of things to mention, some of which you may be aware of but almost certainly not all. So here goes. Firstly, a quick reminder that Thursday 10th January (this coming Thursday) is the date for our next DSRA meeting. As usual the meeting will start at 7pm (likely of 90 minutes duration), but this time it will be held in the C.L.R. James Library (in the meeting room upstairs). As always, the meeting is open to ALL Dalston Square residents, owners and renters alike. Full details, including the agenda, can be found HERE.

Next, dates are now set for the next 2 presentations of the proposed development of the Holy Trinity School site (the school on Roseberry place at the south end of the Square). This will give you the opportunity to see the latest plans of, meet the team behind, and share your thoughts on, the proposed 11 storey development. Both will be held in the school itself (entrance on Beechwood Road) with the first being on Thursday 10th January from 4pm to 8pm, the second on Saturday 12th January from 10am to 2pm. If you did not manage to attend either of the previous events, I suggest all residents try to attend one of these (there is a slight overlap between the Thursday event and the DSRA meeting so why not do one after the after? 😉 ).

Next up, something for all you bicycle owners. Sean Stone (our on-site, Consort, development manager) has arranged for the police to attend the Square on Saturday 19th January to organise a bike security marking session. This will not, of course, stop your bicycle from being stolen, but, if your stolen bicycle is ever recovered by the police (they often break theft rings recovering many stolen bicycles), they will be able to return it to you: Definitely a good thing. This free service will be in the Square from midday until 2pm. It is quick, it is easy, it is free: So take advantage of this opportunity if you can. 😎

Next, I just want to be sure you all have the correct contact details for the on-site Consort staff. To contact the concierge desk (the number changed fairly recently) the old mobile number is no longer valid and the new land-line number is 0207 2547341. To contact Sean Stone (our new development manager) phone 0207 2490896, or email sean.stone@consortpm.co.uk.

One last thing before I leave you in peace: Previously I have mentioned resident Maisie Collin’s ‘Dalston Square Collective’ (a collective for self-employed and freelance people), details HERE on the forum. Well, Maisie has been busy advertising her idea and building support and has now expanded her idea to become ‘The Hackney Collective’ (though it will still be based here in the Square). The local on-line press recently did an article to promote the idea which you can find HERE. If this sounds like something for you, check out the forum post I have linked to to make contact with Maisie.

Okey dokey, that’s it for now. Enjoy the rest of your weekend folks.


Last Of 2012

Hello all, one last post before year’s end. Firstly, we have a date, venue, and agenda for the next general meeting of the Residents’ Association. Thursday, 10th January, 7.00pm, in the meeting room of the C.L.R. James Library here on the Square. As always, the meeting is open to all residents of the Square, renters and owners alike, and will likely last for 90 mins or so. The agenda is as follows:

1) The Residents’ Association – Who is it? What has it achieved? Where next?

2) Consort service charges, present and future – Value for money?

3) Planning applications for the Square – Issues of common concern.

4) Right to manage initiative (changing the management company) – Progress report.

5) Progress on our ‘good neighbourliness’ campaign – Improving the quality of life in and around the Square.

6) Any other business.

Next up, an update on the public space of the Square itself. I am sure I am not alone in welcoming the opening of the next section of the Square this last Thursday. The hoarded section in the middle of the newly opened area is an electricity sub station that will be moved in the new year and so that will soon disappear. The area of grass is also temporary: This is what will become the children’s play area, but it extends slightly beyond the new hoarding line into Barrat’s site hut area and so has been turfed as a temporary measure. When Barrat open up the last section of the Square next spring, the grass will be removed and the play area constructed. Also coming in the spring is the water feature. Comprised of 9 synchronised water jets the feature is already in place (you can see the 9 metal discs, the jets, embedded in the paving) but will not be turned on until after the winter weather is behind us. Barrat’s latest estimate for completion of the public space is June 2013.

Just one last thing to say….

Merry-Christmas


Two Things……….

Firstly, the minutes from the last general meeting of the DSRA are available for download (.pdf file) in the DSRA specific section over at the forum HERE. If that link does not work for you, please read this forum post HERE, and all should become clear. These minutes are available to all residents (renters and owners alike) of Dalston Square: But only residents of Dalston Square. If anyone has any problems getting the minutes, please feel free to contact me (via the general chat section of the forum is best).

Secondly, hands up if you know Maisie Collins. Keep them up if you knew Maisie started the Residents Association single-handed? Well done if you still have your hand up. Maisie had now decided it is time for her newest project: The Dalston Square Collective. Do you work freelance? Perhaps run your own small business? From home on the Square? If you answered yes to any of those options you must read Maisie’s post at the forum (worth a read if you didn’t answer yes – you never know): HERE.

More soon! Enjoy your weekend.


Meeting Reminder & Agenda

Hi folks. Just a quick reminder for all residents of the Square that there will be a general meeting of the Residents’ Association next week. Open to ALL residents (renters and owners alike) the meeting will be hosted by my partner Christine and myself on Tuesday 20th November, at 61 Gaumont Tower, starting promptly at 7.00pm, and chaired by DSRA Chairperson Ben Collins. These meetings generally run for approx 90 minutes and I expect this one will be no different. Listed here below is the agenda for the meeting. Whether you have an opinion you want to express, or just want to know/see how things work at these meetings, every resident is welcome to come along.

Agenda

1) Consort Management Changes

Consort’s proposals versus what residents want.

2) Dalston Square Commercial Units

Bars, restaurants, crèches: What fits and how do Barrat’s wishes compare to those of the residents.

3) Bicycle Security

4) Noisy And Disruptive Late-Night Parties

What further measures can we take?

5) 2013-2014 Service Charges

We have been invited to list our expenditure priorities in a pre-budget meeting with Consort. What are the resident’s priorities?

6) Christmas Social

7) Any Other Business