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

Newsletter

May 2016 Update

Keeping residents informed about what is happening re the Square’s upkeep and activities is always a challenge Here is our best effort for May 2016.

The DSRA (Dalston Residents Association) was established in the early days back in 2011 when the Square’s “Phase 1’ buildings were being completed.

In the face of a) Barratt’s many building glitches and b) Consort’s ( now First Port) indifferent service,  a ‘Buildings Committee’ was set up to make sure  these companies

were held to account.  We also have a ‘Finance Committee’ which meets three times a year to go through First Ports expenditure on our buildings and on the level of our Service Charges. We need new members for this. If you are interested contact the Residents association via the email address given on this site or by paper message in the Residents Association letter box in Gaumont Tower lobby. (Below box 69)

In the early days we also had a Social Committee (for residents’ parties) .

Finally at the request of Hackney Council, a Cultural Committee was established to recommend and plan events in the Square.  New members are needed for this committee too.

Only the Buildings and Finance committee remains active. Now and again some of the more active members of the DSRA organise a roof top party or a Christmas get together. Always a good way to get to know your neighbours!

So what current news from the Buildings Committee?  

Next meeting May 27th 10 am come and join us in CLR James Library Mtg. Rm.

We have achieved so much over the years and the list would take up many pages!

Just now we are dealing with a few hard nuts that have survived on our ‘to do’ list chasing ( with very slow success) Barratts for a proper restaurant smoke extraction system to be installed in phase 1. The kitchen smoke from Le Ziz restaurant in particular, although better when the management cleans its filters, is particularly bad when it seeps into the corridor, gym and lobbies.  Barratt promise us that they are submitting a fresh application for planning consent to the Council for ducting to above rooftop level.

This committee also covers issues related to cleaning and maintenance and we work closely with Gerald Bernard the site manager to make sure quality is maintained.

Maintenance of the Square. Hackney Council.  We have tried to influence the nature of the commercial use of the Square and have called for less chain restaurants and more authentic and locally owned. With mixed success it has to be said!

We find that while the street cleaning (litter etc.) is good, maintenance of the green spaces has been lacking. We are pressing Hackney Council for clarification of the ‘maintenance plan’ for the Square, this has been remarkably slow in coming, however the gardening service do seem to have improved in the past year.

We have also been asking the Council to help us reduce the skateboarding problem- a controversial issue for some, who think the Square should allow for this activity.  No skateboarding signs are going up soon. We hope they won’t look too negative but understand that residents whose flats overlook the Square at low-level are disturbed by the repeated sounds of small wheels on hard paving reverberating off our buildings.

There is more, but this is probably more than enough for the average reader!

Our main aim is to enjoy living in the Square. By taking an active part in the decision-making about the space we live in, we hope to keep up its quality and build sense of a sharing community.

Want to help us? Get in touch via this website.


Newsletters, Transport, Parking, And Super-Fast Internet

Newsletters

Two newsletters to mention: one you should of seen already and one that will be with you very soon. The first is the 5th in the series from Hackney Council’s Cultural Program Officer Lucy McMenemy. Everyone in the development should have received a copy in their post-box but if you missed it you can download a copy from our discussions forum HERE (if you are happy to simply view it in your browser simply look for the thumbnail images at the bottom of this post). This ‘Autumn’ edition gives more info on the light-box installation currently in the square, plus news of upcoming events. Also one sad piece of news: After the success of last year’s City Showcase Christmas Market, they have decided they need more space than the square has to offer and so will not be coming to Dalston Square this year. Instead they will be moving to St. John’s Churchyard in Hackney Central and re-branding themselves as City Showcase Winter Village. Disappointing news but we wish them lots of success.

The second newsletter, from the DSRA (Dalston Square Residents’ Association), is being completed now ready for printing, and could be in your post-box as soon as next week. I will not go in to detail here until it has been posted out, other than to mention one issue it covers, namely the DSRA Christmas social. Every year we hold a social event for residents, an informal get-together to meet your neighbours, and a chance to meet those involved with the DSRA and help us get some views and feedback. In the past we have held early evening, family parties with candles, lanterns, mulled wine, and music: Last year it was held in the greenhouse of the Eastern Curve garden, previous years it was held on the roof terrace of Gaumont Tower with it’s spectacular views of East London and beyond. We could do either again, but new ideas are also welcome. Anyone with an alternative idea, or who would like to help with organisation, please get in touch via the comments section immediately below this post or by email to DalstonSquareRA@gmail.com.

Transport

I am a little late with this as it has been running for a while now, my apologies, but there is still a week to register your opinions. Hackney Council are now consulting on the future of transport in the borough for the next ten years with the launch of the Draft Transport Strategy 2014 – 2024. The transport strategy consists of an overarching document which sets out the Council’s strategic transportation aims, objectives and priorities, and six daughter plans that will make up the Hackney Transport Strategy:

  • Hackney Transport Strategy Overarching Document
  • Walking Plan
  • Cycling Plan
  • Public Transport Plan
  • Liveable Neighbourhoods Plan
  • Road Safety Plan (2014-2016)
  • Sustainable Transport Draft SPD

If you are interested in downloading and reading these documents, and giving feedback to the council on them, click through to THIS webpage. The closing date for submissions is November 7th.

Parking

As any resident who own’s a car, or has visitors who own one, will know, parking in and around Dalston Square can be an expensive nightmare. It was planned to be this way right from the start: To boost the green credentials of the development it was agreed between Barratt Homes and Hackney council that no resident would be eligible for a permit for local street parking. Add to this the fact that over half of the development sits above a rail tunnel, greatly limiting underground parking solutions, and you see why available parking is at a premium. A ray of hope then for those in need of a parking space that the issues surrounding the spaces on the ground floor of the southern end of phase 3 buildings have finally been cleared. There are of course only a limited number available, and at £1850 per annum rental fees not cheap (this is though a very fair price for under-cover parking in this area), but if interested contact Richard at Richard.gordon@barrattlondon.com for details and availability.

Super-fast Internet

As those of you who have followed this website for a while will probably know (or the on-going thread in our discussions forum on this subject HERE), while Openreach (the infrastructure arm of BT) continue to delay rolling out their fibre to the square, Hyperoptic have been working with Barratt to offer us the super-fast speeds only fibre-optics can bring. It has been a fairly lengthy process to firstly secure enough interest from residents to make the project financially viable, and secondly get the go-ahead from Barratt to retro-fit the network cabling to the entire development, but finally this work is under way. Openreach have been contracted to bring the fibre into block basements (strange they could do it as a contractor but not as a supplier) which has now been done, where the necessary hardware will be installed to switch over to the copper that is being laid right now. In a matter of just weeks we should see the whole system ready to go live. With all of that in mind, now is the last chance you have to take advantage of the excellent deals Hyperoptic are offerings to early adopters. Free connection to the network (connecting your apartment into the building network will incur charges after the work crews have left site) and as much as 40% off of monthly fees for the first 2 years (the discount varies depending on the speed you opt for: 40% is the discount on their fastest, 1Gb, connection). Of course there will be folk who are locked in to a contract with their current suppliers, but even then it may be worth looking in to seeing if a saving can still be made by buying yourself out of it. Full details of the offers available , along with the discount code required when registering (this code will only work for Dalston Square residents so please do not bother trying to use it if you are not resident here) can be found HERE. Also, Hyperoptic are sending their ‘Hyper-Ambassador’ Peter (not too hyper I hope – bouncing off the walls and into the furniture) here for a couple of visits next week to answer any questions residents may have regarding the service. He will be stationed in the lobby of Gaumont Tower on Thursday 6th and Friday 7th November from 4pm until 8pm.

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Autumn Newsletter

Hello everyone. Bit of a long one today, but please do read through as there is definitely something here for everyone. The main thing will be an update in the shape of a newsletter to keep you all informed of what has been happening in a slew of recent meetings. But first a couple of other notices. First up, another public event has been organised by Hackney Council for this coming weekend (Saturday 27th October) here in the Square. Running from midday until 4.00pm, to celebrate the opening of the new Young Hackney Centre on Forest Road/Beechwood Road, there will be free, yes FREE, bungee trampoline! Trained instructors will be there to ensure complete safety and no booking is required: First come, first served. For full details visit the council’s dedicated Dalston Square website HERE. The other quick mention I wanted to make is regarding the new permit system for the underground parking here on the Square. As you will all be aware (thanks to Consort posting out to every residence) the new system is now up and running. If you have a vehicle parked in the underground parking but do not have a permit to display in your vehicle’s windscreen, get one asap from the concierge guys or you will very soon find you have received a parking ticket (if you didn’t get one already). Okey dokey, newsletter time (courtesy of DSRA Chairperson Ben Collins, thanks Ben).

Dalston Square Residents Association Newsletter – Autumn 2012

Damage to glass canopy

The glass canopy (between Gaumont and Collins Towers) was vandalized by persons unknown throwing stones from one of the nearby building roof-tops. It seems that an intruder entered through a poorly working security door in either Collins or Gaumont Tower on both Friday 29th and Saturday 30th of September. The damage and repair costs are estimated at around £25,000.00. It is not yet clear who will pay for this. The residents association will argue that the damage was caused by care-taking negligence, resulting in a lapse in building security. There is also a case of inappropriate design and use of materials, on behalf of Barratt Architects. The DSRA will campaign to ensure any costs are not met retrospectively by an increase in our service charges for 2013-2014. We need your support for that so please come along to our next meeting.

Changes to site management staff

The residents association have long been concerned that Consort site staff have not been delivering value for money for the high service charges we all pay to keep the building in a good state of cleanliness and repair. The smashed canopy was in part a result of site management negligence. There have been ongoing small issues which we feel have not been properly addressed. Amongst these have been keeping all entrance doors in good working order, keeping paintwork in corridors clean, ensuring rubbish containers are accessible, and keeping entrance thresholds and lobbies clean and litter free. Consort management are aware of our concerns regarding these matters, as well as a number of others. We will continue to monitor progress on these items under any future site team, to ensure we get value for money.

Co-op and new café to open on the Square

Work is now under way on the new Co-op which will soon be opening in the North West corner of the Square beneath Ocean House (next to Dalston Junction overground station). We do not have a date for that opening but assume it will be soon. Also, a new café by the name of Café Square is to open in the commercial unit beneath Gaumont Tower, facing Collins Tower. While this is clearly a welcome development, residents are concerned about proposals for a vent grille at ground level, which could well see kitchen odours travelling up to resident’s balconies and windows above. If you want to respond to this plan, you may do so by visiting the Hackney Council website HERE. Simply enter the application number 2012/2818 (all comments must be in by October 31st). There is also some concern regarding the café’s licencing request to the council: The application request seems more suited to a bar than a café. More details available at our discussions forum in this thread HERE.

Good Neighbourliness and noise abatement

The issue of noisy parties into the early hours continues to cause many residents stress on week-end nights. The resident association appeals for respectful consideration of the right of others to a quiet night’s sleep. Those who are subjected to unreasonable noise by unreasonable neighbours at night should not hesitate to contact the concierge service who will keep names private but will intervene on your behalf. You can pop down to speak to the concierge or call them on 0751 630 2926. It is also advisable, should there be a repeat, or a noisy late night event outside the building, to contact the Hackney Council Noise Pollution Team on 0208 356 4455 (alternatively you can contact them through there website, a link to which is in the link list on the homepage of our website). Following repeated complaints by several neighbours about noisy parties at one particular residence on the Square, the resident association has been informed that the tenants responsible were evicted earlier this month. They were in breach of the terms of both lease and tenancy agreements, which stipulated that noise should not be audible in neighbouring flats after 11.00pm or before 8am. So if you suffer because of thoughtless neighbours, you can do something about it.

Bike Storage – a design shortfall

The residents association is campaigning for an improvement in the bike storage and security in the Square, both inside and outside the buildings. It seems that while good space was made for cars, the provision for bikes was an afterthought. Secure bike stores are either not secure or often not easily accessible to the user. Both these defects mean that many, if not most, are obliged to take bikes up in the lifts causing a number of problems. We are meeting with Barratt to push for some changes in location and design to see if matters can be improved. We need the backing of cyclists on this! Let us know your views via our discussion forum HERE.

Next DSRA meeting: Nov 20th 2012 – Looking ahead to 2013 Service Charges

The Dalston Square Residents’ Association is keen to ensure all resident’s voices are heard. We invite all residents, owners and renters alike, to our open, 6 weekly, committee meetings. The next open committee meeting is on Tuesday Nov 20th. More details nearer the time on our website. We also encourage everybody to make use of our discussions forum. Anyone can read the posts on the forum but to reply to someone’s post or start a conversation yourself you will need to register (a quick and simple 2 minute process). If you have any opinions regarding anything mentioned here, or anything else come to that, don’t keep them to yourself, share them.

 


Residents Association Newsletter

Dalston Square Residents Newsletter

Developments in the Square

We are told that the Co-op has exchanged contracts on the premises by the main entrance to the Station, but as yet we have no information on exactly when it will open. The site of the rumored Mediterranean Restaurant is still under offer according to the estate agent managing commercial properties in the Square. The Library Café is due for a new fascia board soon to replace the plastic banner currently in place. Watch this space for future developments!

Consort getting some repairs out of Barratt, but…

The new dialogue between the residents’ Building Sub Committee, Consort management, and Barratt is paying off more in some areas than others, and the process can seem very slow. It is difficult at times to know if it is Barratt or Consort who are holding things up. The Buildings Committee meets every 6 weeks with Consort for a site walkabout to assess progress on what needs fixing. Consort says that they are chasing Barratt and we hope that they are now being properly held to account and repairs are being made. If you have concerns let the building committee know. (This is best achieved via our Forum.)

The following are the result of the Associations pressure.

  • Roof gardens have been freshly weeded and with the help of rain are looking better, if not as they should be according to original planting.
  • Water outlets have now been installed on roof terraces so that plants can be watered. (Anyone willing to help with the upkeep of the planters is very welcome to volunteer! Please speak to Gerry Hayes, Consort’s Site Manager.)
  • New locking arrangements are to be installed so that Ocean and Dekker residents cannot lock themselves in the bin rooms.
  • The stonework outside Collins has been re-leveled to stop the puddle forming. (We are aware that this has only been a partial success and we are again chasing for more work to be done.)
  • Glass roof panels (between Gaumont and Collins Towers) to be fixed following battle between Consort and the building insurance company. (Frustratingly, the repair has again been held up by the installation company, which Consort is chasing as we got to press.)
  • Barratt have yet to step up and deal with the flooding that follows heavy rain in the underground parking. The Building Committee will keep pressing for this.

Consort’s Service Charges for Next Year… An open book?

There are ongoing concerns about the level of service charges as well as transparency of calculations. There is a general crisis of confidence in how fees are arrived at. The Residents’ Association plans to meet with the Consort Regional Management Team ahead of the next round of budgeting to discuss next years’ charges.

E.on Heat Charges

E.on have a monopoly on Heat, which is a challenge. Ben Collins has written to Barratt’s about the nature of the Heating contract originally negotiated with Eon when planning the complex. Barratt’s response was posted to this blog Here.

Many residents have moved their electricity supplier from E-On. As far a heating is concerned many have found that it is best to pay a lower standing charge and higher per unit charge.  On behalf of the Residents Association, Mark has been in discussion with Eon about getting better information to residents about how to cut their fuel bills, and his findings can be read in his forum post Here.

Right to Manage

Many residents remain unimpressed with Consort’s performance and ability to run the complex efficiently and effectively. As we have pointed out before, the law allows flat owners to replace a management company if 50% or more of the leaseholders vote for that change.

Urang, a London based property management company, have been invited by a group of residents to consider taking over the management. The company has a reputation for efficiency and prompt delivery. Urang are now completing the lengthy research needed to contact all leaseholders, or their agents. Following this, and working with a group of resident ‘Directors’ from Dalston Square, Urang will contact all Dalston Square owners to seek approval for taking over the management from Consort.

Web Presence

Thanks to Mark, we now have a Dalston Square website (used for DSRA announcements and information), and a Forum (for resident discussion and communication). Register on the website to receive all new posts directly to your email (guaranteed no spam… Ever… We promise), and register on the Forum to participate in the discussions (you can read the posts without registering, but not make your own contribution).

Residents’ ‘Get Together’ – A roof party at the end of the summer

The Easter egg hunt at the Eastern Curve Garden was a great success. Marked by its youthful spirit when even adults couldn’t resist searching out eggs in the higher brambles! This event is to be followed by a ‘roof social’ for all residents, planned for Sunday 9th September on the 9th floor roof terrace of Gaumont Tower.  This coincides with the closure of the Paralympics. The stadium is very visible from the east-facing roof so we hope for a firework display, although the Olympic committee has not yet fully responded to our request!

Join us! Watch for posters in August. If you would like/are able to help with organisation, please get in touch via the Forum.


April Newsletter

Consort service charges… Yet more unease! 

The predictive 2012-2013 service charges for Consort services are a maze to unravel.

Service Charges for your flat this year will depend on the building, the size of your flat, and if you are a lease holder, tenant, or shared owner.

Furthermore, it would appear that Consort are still ‘sorting out’ their maths and charging some residents for their past under-levying. Rises are likely for many despite a 2012-2013 predictive budget that shows no overall increase for the Dalston Square Complex. Residents in some buildings may pay less than in the past year, but shared ownerships are seemingly facing big increases.

Our recent survey shows that residents feel strongly that they are not getting value for money from Consort. Phase 1 residents are especially angered by the overall 40% increases in charges since they moved in, in 2010.

Prospective residents beware! Some say that Consort and Barratt deliberately understate service charge rates at the point of sale. The Residents Association have been meeting with Consort regional managers to address this and other areas of contention, such as poor building completion.

Consort seeks to claw back the losses of 2010 under-levy.

Due to a budget underestimate two years ago, Consort are now asking many residents to pay hundreds of £s for a historical under-levy. Many are threatening to not pay any increase.

While the DSRA does not have the resources to organise a co-ordinated refusal campaign, we understand why individual residents are taking resistive action. Anyone interested in organising a campaign is welcome to use our website and/or forum.

Bicycle storage problem persists...

Barratt seemingly unwilling to take the issue seriously.

While much about the Square is designed to save energy, and Hackney planners stipulated minimal car and maximum bike parking and lock up facilities, residents face real challenges when securing their bikes. With bike theft growing, the need for accessible and secure lock-up bike rooms is obvious, and yet these have not been provided in the volume needed. Some Phase 1 buildings have no secure rooms, and in Phase 2, lock-ups are overcrowded causing much frustration to owners extracting their bikes in the morning rush. As a result, bicycles are being taken up the lifts to flats (and by so doing damaging walls, lifts and cluttering balconies).  The DSRA have approached Consort over this problem, who has discussed the lack of adequate facilities with Barratt Homes. No agreement to improve facilities has yet been made. Taking your bike upstairs is often the only solution. But this cannot be a permanent arrangement: Barratt should provide us with proper bike storage facilities. Anyone wanting to join our campaign, please relay your name and concerns to Consort via the Concierge, or contact us via our Forum.

E-on high energy costs…

The monopoly spells bad news for residents.

Dalston residents know that their energy bills are higher than first expected when we were told about the efficiency of the Square’s ‘Green Energy’ generator. E-on claim that their high charges are due to the high costs of the cutting-edge micro-generation system in our communal basement. This should not be so.

The hot water we buy at an unregulated price is actually ‘waste’ heat that is the by-product of electricity generation. E-on is making money from the heat that is usually thrown away in conventional power stations. Further to this, E-on has a monopoly on our heating provision so can charge whatever they can get away with.

Any resident interested in challenging the prices we pay and the E-on monopoly, please contact bmcengland@aol.com. It will take a concerted effort to break this one.

Cycle path to zip through the Square?

At a recent meeting with Hackney Council Planners, the Residents Association challenged the idea of running a cycleway through the square and onward through the Eastern Curve Garden. The DSRA will be writing to the Council to express serious concerns about safety and the disturbance of playing children.

Terrace plants to be saved.

The DSRA has won its battle to have the terrace planters saved from complete neglect and decay. Barratt has accepted that a tap and hose system should be installed on roof terraces so water is available for the plants. It has also agreed (verbally at least) to replace the plants that have died due to the lack of proper facilities for their watering.

DSRA survey results.

 The questionnaire posted out to all residents in February has revealed some interesting views on life on the Square. The concierge service came out well, regarded as friendly and helpful by most residents, as are the indoor cleaners.

Over 50 questionnaires were returned which is enough to give a good picture of resident concerns across the complex, and the information gained from the survey will help the DSRA to focus its efforts when talking to Consort and Barratt.

Building repairs and the quality of maintenance scored much less well. The scuff marks on corridor walls (often caused by bikes) stained carpets and dying plants on terraces were sighted as big concerns, and seen to be eroding the high standards set when the buildings were opened.

Bicycle storage facilities were considered inadequate (see our separate report above).

All the respondents felt the energy costs were most unsatisfactory and many expressed concern about the E-on monopoly on heat (you can opt for a different electricity supplier).

Overall, people felt that Consort was not seen to provide good value for money. The DSRA would like to see Consort helping to challenge both Barratt and E-on, and be on the side of residents in tackling building defects and energy costs.