Hi neighbours. Just wanted to pass on some news I have received from Lucy McMenemy, Cultural Programme Officer from Hackney Council. As you all know by now, the council has plans to make Dalston Square a focal point of the local community by laying on a wide range of events and activities. The news from Lucy comes in 3 parts: Firstly, posted to the forum are the minutes from the latest meeting of the Culture & Community Engagement Forum HERE (scroll down to the last post on the thread).
Secondly, a poster for the community wide project, Dalston Children’s Festival: A summer’s worth of events, to run throughout Dalston. Click on the thumbnail below this message to see it in full. Those of you who follow our Twitter feed (@DalstonSquareRA) will have seen us mentioning this already: If you have kids, get them out there and support this wonderful initiative. Saturday 25th May should be a great community gathering, if the weather is on our side, as it is the launch of the Dalston Children’s Festival and it is also the first night of the Dalston Square Cinema. The square will be temporarily transformed into a cinema by the Lost Picture Show, and the film programme has been been chosen by local teenagers. That night the film programme includes the 70’s hit musical Bugsy Malone.
Thirdly, in order to ensure that residents do not feel left out of the loop of what is going on in what many feel is their Square, Lucy’s team is to produce a newsletter, posted out to every residence in the Square, which will contain a full programme of events. The first edition will be with you shortly. Lucy apologises for the ‘corporate’ feel of this first edition, but assures us future editions will be better. For anyone who loses track of their copy, and for followers of this blog who do not live on the Square itself, I will be posting copies of this newsletter to our discussions forum for all to download. The first edition is available HERE.
One last thing before I leave you in peace: Don’t forget our Twitter feed at @DalstonSquareRA. Although these DSRA posts go out on it, 99% of our tweets are regarding the wider community: Everything from Hackney Council updates to pop-up restaurants to local community events. And if you tweet yourself, and know of something going on we have missed, tweet at us and we will re-tweet you!
That’s it for now folks, have a great weekend.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.