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

Posts tagged “Buildings & Maintenance

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…..

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Fire Update, Website Milestone, Mussels, And ‘Hackney Circle’

Fire Update

Further to my last post, I have received a statement from Consort’s on-site Development Manager Gerald Bernard, following last Fridays meeting between representatives of London Fire Brigade, Consort, Fire Design Solutions, and Nancy’s Pantry:

The cause of the fire was discussed with Nancy’s Pantry alone.

The main points of discussion centred around compartmentalisation, smoke, and operation of the smoke extract systems. The LFB inspectors were happy that there were no breaches to the firestopping, even commenting that where they would normally expect to find a couple of unfinished areas, but that ours are all finished to an above average standard. They noted the gaps around extractor ducting installed by Nancy’s pantry, as having contributed to the smoke which entered the service corridor, but believed the majority of the smoke in the service corridor entered via the rear fire escape door, which had been opened (it was thought this may have been opened by fire fighters, or Nancy’s Pantry staff).

No breaches were found that could have allowed smoke into the residential areas, and very little evidence of smoke was found in these areas, only small sooty deposits around a couple of doors and over some wall mounted lights on the lower floors of Raddon. LFB concluded that smoke in these areas must have entered via the doors as people made their way outside, and was possibly related to their own smoke extract systems, though it was unclear how and where these had been operated.

Some smoke from the service corridor had been drawn into the gym, thought to be via its own ventilation system. Which set off fire alarms in the gym, a log of which was recorded on the fire alarm panel behind the Concierge desk. It was concluded that the smoke extract systems in Raddon had operated in the correct manner, but that clearer information on their operation was needed for the future, as fire fighters at the time were unclear as to how to operate it, or whether it was operating.

It was decided that Fire Design Solutions would produce a clear and concise operation manual to be held by the Concierge, and that basic instructions will be produced to be displayed in the lobbies of each building.

All very reassuring I think you will agree. The only thing to add to this statement is regarding the question of how smoke managed to percolate through to other areas of the phase 1 complex. To attempt to solve this riddle, smoke testing will be conducted within Nancy’s Pantry to attempt to replicate a fire situation while observers monitor the movement and spread of smoke. This will be conducted as soon as possible before builders move in to repair the fire damage.

Website Milestone

It was only after publishing my last post I realised it was the 100th post on this website since it went live back in November 2011 (on average one post every 10 days). Nearly 3 years later we now have over 750 registered followers (this includes followers of our Twitter account which is directly linked to the website), who have contributed over 120 comments to those 100 posts. We have also had our share of spam comments: To date we have attracted 23,712 spam links that have been added to our website! Fortunately the spam filter caught 99% of them leaving me to catch just a couple of hundred. Bearing in mind that registered followers receive direct emails and so have no need to visit the site, we still attract an average of approximately 600 visitors per month who make over 1000 page views between them. Total page views so far over the life of the website: Over 32,700. And here is the most amazing statistic: Thanks to inquisitive minds and the widespread use of search engines, the website has been visited by residents of 109 countries: Over half of the world total! Who knew Dalston was of such global interest. 😉

Mussels

Until now the only businesses I have publicised on this website are those resident here in the square. However, my partner Christine (who runs the DSRA Twitter account) and I were recently dining out at Mussel Men, on Kingsland Road in Dalston (a 2 minute walk from the square) when we got chatting with Robin, owner/operator of the business. Conversation came around to the opening deals the businesses here in the square gave to residents, and Robin has decided he would like to do something for us also. Cards are in the process of being printed, but keep an eye on your postbox for an upcoming 2 for 1 special exclusively for Dalston Square residents. If you love mussels (or indeed oysters), you are in for a treat.

Hackney Circle

Tomorrow sees the launch of Hackney Circle, a free to join, innovative new membership scheme for Hackney residents aged 60 and over. Members will be able to take advantage of weekly special offers and events in the cafes, shops, and services around Dalston Square. All Hackney residents over 60 are invited to become free members of Hackney Circle. Members will receive regular information about events and special offers in the pipeline. Contact Lucy McMenemy for further details on 020 8356 2919 or email Lucy at lucy.mcmenemy@hackney.gov.uk. Hackney Circle has been commissioned by Hackney Council and has been devised by The Decorators, a collective of designers. The launch runs from 3pm to 5pm here in the square (including the C.L.R. James Library).

HC1 HC2


Restaurant Fire Plus Phase 1 Kitchen Ventilation

Restaurant Fire

As I am sure everyone is by now aware, fire gutted Nancy’s Pantry, the children orientated restaurant here in the square, early this past Tuesday morning. The fire started at around 7.30am and was attended by 6 fire tenders and 35 firemen and officers from Shoreditch, Homerton, Stoke Newington, and Islington fire stations. A dozen residents from immediately above the restaurant were evacuated as a precaution, but the fire was contained within the restaurant and fully extinguished by 9.30am. The fire, it seems, was caused by an electrical fault, possibly with a refrigerator or the socket it was plugged into: The fire brigade are investigating and will no doubt report back soon.

In the wake of the fire there have been 3 very important questions asked which I would like to address here:

Why did audible alarms not sound throughout Labyrinth Tower when the fire detectors were triggered? The answer is very simple: There are none (despite the fact that the fire warning instruction signs posted within each block are based on what to do on hearing alarms). There are of course smoke detectors with audible alarms in each and every apartment, but in public areas the smoke detectors have no alarm attached, and for a very good reason: In the event of fire, you are supposed to stay put in your apartment (unless a) the fire is in your apartment, or b) you are instructed to evacuate by fire and/or safety officials). If there were audible alarms throughout the building, people would attempt evacuation without knowing where the fire is, potentially heading in the direction of the fire. If you are unaware of the drill in the event of a fire anywhere in the square, the official fire policy document for Dalston Square is available for download at our discussions forum HERE: Please do read it if you have not already done so.

How did smoke manage to infiltrate the stairwell of Raddon Tower next door? As yet we have no answer as to how the smoke managed to cross from one block to it’s neighbour (something that certainly should not be possible), but this is being investigated and will hopefully be rectified soon: The DSRA will follow this issue over the coming weeks.

Why did the AOV (Automatic Opening Vent) system fail to clear the smoke from Raddon Tower’s stairwell? There was simply insufficient smoke for it to make it from the stairwell into any of the corridors where the smoke detectors would have triggered the system. For those not familiar with this system, check your hallway and you will see a panel somewhere in the wall labelled ‘Smoke Shaft Door’. In the event of the smoke detectors being triggered, these ‘doors’ open to reveal a large vent system. At the same time, powerful fans on the roof of the block kick in to push huge quantities of fresh air down through the stairwell, strong enough to push open the fire doors leading from the stairwell into each and every floor’s corridors, and thereby forcing any smoke in those corridors out into the vent system: Very clever. Remember that it is estimated that at least half (and by some estimates as many as 80%) of all fire deaths are due to the inhalation of smoke rather than burning.

Phase 1 kitchen ventilation

Finally our persistence in pursuing Barratt with regard an extraction system for the kitchens of the restaurants in phase 1 (the eastern side of the square) has borne fruit. Barratt have now submitted plans to Hackney Council to retro-fit a proper, above roof-line, extraction system. Currently all these restaurants simply pump their smoke and fumes into the rear service tunnel (that runs from Gaumont Tower through to Labyrinth Tower) from where it is finding it’s way into lobbies, and up into the residential parts of each block. As is usual with this king of planning application (a visual change to Gaumont Tower as the ducting will be fitted to the outside of the rear of the block), the council is giving the general public the opportunity to comment on the proposal. Residents of Gaumont Tower have received direct communication from the council regarding this, but for other phase 1 residents who have supported our campaign, not received this letter, but who would like the opportunity to comment on the application, the process can be done online HERE. All comments must be in by 26th September so get your comments in soon. For Phase 2 residents who are concerned that they will experience a similar problem when the Japanese restaurant in Thomas Tower opens for business, worry not: You already have a proper extraction system in place.


Survey for Dalston Square Residents

Further to my last post our short, anonymous survey for residents of Dalston Square is now ready. Currently being printed it should be in letterboxes by the end of the working day tomorrow (Friday). Comprised of just 11 multiple choice questions (with options to add extra comments if you wish) it really will take just a minute or 2 to complete. This is your home, and this is your chance to voice your opinion on how it is being managed. I am aware that this website has many followers that reside in the local community but not in the Square itself, and on this occasion I ask you please ignore this posting: Our survey is for Dalston Square residents only please. I should also mention that the closing date for responses is April 15th, so there is plenty of time to respond. Please return your completed survey to the DSRA letterbox in the foyer of Gaumont Tower: It is immediately beneath box number 69.

And for those who prefer ‘electronic’, the survey can be completed right here on the website. Simply click the link below to have the survey open for you. And of course if you complete the survey here, please ignore the paper version when you receive it. Many thanks in advance to you all for your time.


Consort Alerts + Kingsland Shopping Centre Redevelopment

I have, this morning, posted 3 new Consort ‘Alerts’ to the forum: Sanitisation of the Phase 3 sub-basement has begun as promised, but will take a little longer than expected to complete; cleaning of communal carpets throughout the development has begun this week; Phase 2 bicycle storage unit to be emptied by Friday next week. All 3 ‘Alerts’ can be read in full in our forum HERE.

Those of you familiar with Hackney Council’s DAAP (Dalston Area Action Plan) know that Kingsland Shopping Centre is living on borrowed time. The planned redevelopment of this area is central to the council’s  vision of an updated, modern Dalston. To this end, the first of what is sure to be many public meetings is scheduled for Tuesday next week, February 25th, at 6.30pm in the Stoke Newington Town Hall, and everyone is invited. Although not able to participate in the discussions, members of the public will be able to sit in on the presentation a developer will be making to the council, about their plan for the redevelopment. Full details of exactly what will be happening are included in the document thumb-nailed below. Click on each image to see it full size. (The link at the bottom of page 1 can be followed HERE.)

Kingsland p1Kingsland p2Kingsland p3


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.


Sewage Smells In Dalston Square

Hello all. Whilst primarily directed to tenants of Phase III, as the smells have apparently been detectable across the Square I felt this official notice from Consort should be posted here as well in it’s usually place on our forum (in the ‘Consort Memos & Notices’ section HERE):

Dear Resident

Sewerage smells

You may have noticed a smell of sewerage over the last couple of weeks and we apologise for this.

The reason there has been a smell is due to a large amount of sanitary towels/wipes/fat etc blocking up the drains underneath your buildings. This led to flooding of the sub basement area with actual raw sewerage. Thames Water were called out who had to pump out tonnes of contaminated water. Unfortunately this meant that remnants of the raw sewerage was left lying stagnant in the sub basement area for some time before Barratt were once again on site after the xmas break to clean it up. The sub basement area has not been handed over to Consort to date, but the clean up has now been successfully completed and the smell should have disappeared.

If you could please refrain from ever putting sanitary towels or wipes down your toilets it would stop this from happening again in addition to fat or ground coffee being put down your kitchen sinks.

Thank you for your co-operation.

Consort Customer Services

So there we have it. And it must be said that this advise is applicable to ALL Dalston Square residents, not just those in Phase III: Phases I & II, though not so severely, have also had blockage problems as a result of people flushing things down the toilet that should not be flushed. Tampons, sanitary towels, wet-wipes, cotton-buds, and fabric off-cuts are just some of the items removed from blocked pipes throughout the development (that I know of). Plumbing, and sewers come to that, are simply not designed to accept these things. As for fat and coffee, do a quick search on Youtube and you will find videos that show in full disgusting detail why these should never be flushed or discarded down the sink.

Apologies for starting 2014 with such an unpleasant post, but better news (the Square’s newest restaurant – Le Ziz) coming very soon. 😉


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!