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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the first instance, or Charlotte Perrott (email@example.com)
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…..
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.
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. 😉
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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):
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. 😉