Saturday, 24 June 2017

Duffy calls for urgent Brent Council meeting on post-Grenfell action

Cllr John Duffy has written to all Brent councillors seeking support for his call for an urgent Council meeting to review the situation in Brent following the Grenfell tragedy:
We are all aware of the fall out of the disaster of Grenfell Tower and the knock-on affect in Camden. Swiss Cottage is  not far from Kilburn and the issue is tangible on Kilburn High Road and is concerning residents.

I have spoken to officers who seem to be doing a reasonable job, however Brent have some decision we need to make particularly in South Kilburn and Stonebridge. 

I was shocked  when I saw the state of the internal repairs in the blocks in Camden, no fire protection on gas pipes and lack of maintenance on fire doors. Camden have questions to ask themselves who was doing the installation and who was signing it off.

Camden problems of poor maintenance maybe be reflected in our own maintenance programme. Therefore we need to take action, we also have to look at our regeneration programme and our housing stock to see if we can retro-fit sprinkler systems.I have heard on Sky News that Brent may be affected, but I have not heard anything from officers to confirm this.

We as a council need to meet to discuss options, like do we wish to ensure all new blocks in the regeneration areas are fitted with sprinklers, do we retro fit older blocks, the logistics of doing so, the cost  and the timetable. We also need to discuss our emergency planning operation to ensure we are able to decant residents ( we recently used in the evacuation plan around Brondesbury Park) and  do we have short and medium term accommodation available.

I am writing to the Mayor, Leader and CEO asking them to call an urgent meeting meeting for Monday 3rd July , this will allow officers to prepare an options report  to update councillors and allow councillors to ask  relevent questions and to look at options.

I am aware we are having a calendered meeting on the 11th of July, but I believe we need a dedicated meeting , without the usual political divisions. Janice Long sent us something recently about Social Housing in the aftermath, which highlight a lot of the problems we are about to face.

Octavia clarify safety situation regarding Elizabeth House in Wembley

Octavia Housing has clarified the situation regarding the safety of Elizabeth House in Wembley High Road.

The 120 foot high block of 115 apartments over 12 floors was built by Willmott Dixon who are responsible for many new builds in Brent.

The London Fire Brigade has told Octavia that they see no immediate or urgent concern over Elizabeth House.  Octavia, who met with residents yesterday, state there is no immediate need for removal of the building's cladding or evacuation of residents.  If it is decided to remove the cladding this may take a matter of months.  They will be keeping in close touch with residents and will keep them advised of any change in the situation.

A statement issued yesterday by Noel Brosnan, Octavia's Asset Management Director:
We were assured, and have since been reassured, that Elizabeth House meets all of the building regulations in place at the time. It has a variety of safety features including sprinklers in all flats and at the point of handover from the contractors, we also had a fire strategy drawn up, which the London Fire Brigade (LFB) had input into and final sign-off on.

Since hearing the news that some of the cladding used at Elizabeth House did not meet the highest standards set by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), we have followed all the procedures set out by the Department of Communities and Local Government. Our staff have been on site throughout the day and we have arranged 24//7 patrols to reassure residents. 

We have had an independent fire assessor visit the site and confirm that no immediate action is required. The London Fire Brigade have also visited the site and have confirmed that they have a good impression of the building and stated it was very well managed and so he can see no need to immediate or urgent concern. Residents should be reassured that we are doing, and will continue to do everything necessary to ensure their safety.

To date, we have been given no advice from external authorities, nor have our own inspections highlighted any urgent or high priority issues that require immediate action. We will continue to keep in contact with the relevant authorities and our residents and will take action necessary to ensure safety. 

To reiterate, we are surprised and dismayed and will be looking into this situation further over the coming days. Our number one priority remains the safety of our residents who we are sending regular updates to. We had a meeting with residents on site this evening.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Lucas: May government has no majority and no mandate

Statement from Caroline Lucas, MP

Today’s Queen Speech comes at a time when Britain desperately needs a change of direction – yet all it contained was empty words from a hollowed out Government.

The criminal loss of life at Grenfell Tower and the latest terror attack at Finsbury Park have shown once again the importance of strong communities, the urgent need to invest in public services and the extent to which Britain values courage and compassion. 

Instead we have a morally and politically bankrupt Government - with no majority and no mandate.

The Tories and their DUP partners in crime have no meaningful plans to tackle climate change. They have refused to give our hard pressed NHS workers the pay rise they deserve. They have dodged the opportunity to protect EU nationals’ rights. And they have systematically failed in their duty to keep us safe in our homes and on the streets.

This is an administration utterly out of touch, a government running on empty, and a PM without a shred of authority.

As a Green MP, I’ll continue holding them to account and standing up for what matters – starting with a proposal for a major Environmental Protection Bill and a cross party amendment to the Queen’s Speech that unilaterally confirms that EU nationals living in the UK retain their rights to remain.

Quintain issues fire safety assurance for its highrise Wembley development

Quintain have issued the following statement in response to  enquiries about the safety of its high rise development in Wembley Park:
We take our health & safety obligations at Wembley Park extremely seriously and were deeply saddened to witness the terrible events at Grenfell Tower. We are building a large scale mixed use development and with that comes a responsibility to ensure the safety of all the workers, visitors and residents at Wembley Park.

All of our residential buildings are new build. None of our residential buildings are refurbishments and each building has a fire safety strategy that has been developed in conjunction with a leading fire specialist, Jeremy Gardner Associates, who we have worked with for over 10 years.

All of our buildings are fully compliant with building regulations and their designs were approved by both the London Borough of Brent Building Control and The London Fire Brigade.

We have used high quality building materials throughout our development at Wembley Park and as the owners of the 85 acre estate we have professional onsite management, including regular building inspections, fire risk assessment by independent professional fire risk assessors and tenant liaison.

Rydon Construction is on London Mayor's London Development Panel

Indro Sen addressing the recent UCU Congress

Open letter to the Mayor of London, in response to his open letter to the Prime Minister dated 18 June 2017 by Indro Sen, a friend and a caseworker of one of the  Grenfell Tower victims

Mayor of London
Mr. Sadiq Khan
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
London SE1 2AA
 20 June 2017
Dear Mr. Khan,

It is commendable that you have written your open letter highlighting, quite rightly, in my view, some of the concerns faced by poorer and powerless sections of our community of all colour, creed and political persuasion, who live in tower blocks up and down the country, whose voices of concern with regards to health and safety have not been heard by landlords for a long time.

My name is Indro Sen.  I taught in a college, the College of North West London in Brent for the last 11 years, and have been informed that one of our staff member who used to live in Grenfell Tower was released from hospital following the fire at her residence. She is currently staying in a hotel and awaits being rehoused permanently at a place of her choice. I hope those in power will carry out the promises given to her and other inhabitants of Grenfell Tower as well as those living in similar accommodation elsewhere. 

The reason for writing to you is because of what I have recently learnt about your plans to deliver affordable housing to Londoners in line with your election promise, which, in my view does not sit comfortably with the following passage in your open letter to the Prime Minister.  I quote the relevant section below.

You say under the sub heading:
Tower block safety

“Residents I spoke to are worried about the risk of this tragic incident happening elsewhere – particularly in tower blocks that have had similar cladding installed as part of renovations.

People are terrified that the same thing could happen to them. I raised this with Ministers on Wednesday and Thursday, and they agreed to lead coordinated efforts to ensure that all other tower blocks across the country are indeed safe.

This issue is not limited to the type of cladding fitted; the material it is attached to and how this has been achieved are also critical factors.”

What I have recently learnt is that you have set up a team of builders/constructors known as LDP (London Development Panel) LINK, which includes amongst its member Rydon Construction Limited, one of the contractors that have featured in newspaper reports as responsible for providing cladding around Grenfell Tower.

I believe it is a matter of public interest that your office discloses the process/due diligence carried out by your office in selecting this panel of constructors so that Londoners who might benefit from affordable housing will know that these constructors have been selected properly having carried out checks.

I note that you have urged the Prime Minister that the public enquiry produces an interim report. May I invite you to submit your selection procedure for this panel together with the names of 25 LDP members (or any additional members since their selection) to the panel of enquiry and further invite you to declare a moratorium on any building works or plans carried out by any of the LDP panel members until the interim public enquiry report makes clear findings of fact so that the public are assured that none of your panel members are in any way responsible for or contributed to the Grenfell tragedy. 

In addition you should investigate whether any of these LDP members have cut corners with regards to other high-rise buildings, or buildings used by Londoners as you have quite correctly, asked the Prime Minister to investigate the contractors and/or builders responsible for high rise buildings including Grenfell Tower on behalf of the residents.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need any clarification with the subject matter of this letter.

Indro Sen

The LDP Panel from GLA website LINK

Monday, 19 June 2017

'Delay South Kilburn Masterplan until community has reviewed it,' request Granville and Carlton users

Leslie Barson and Deirdre Woods, representing the users of South Kilburn's Granville and Carlton Centres are unable to attend tonight's Cabinet meeting which will consider the Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document. They have submitted the following comments for consideration by the Cabinet and a request that the Cabinet delay acceptance of the plan to enable the community to review what should be their plan.

The South Kilburn Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) is over 180 pages long over 3 sections. The people from South Kilburn were given 6 weeks to comment on this document which lays out the plans for their homes, parks, health, education, small businesses, and community services in the area for the next 10 -15 years. Each site is given 2 A4 pages in the document. The first half of the page gives the details about where the property is with the second half of the same page incorporating a short paragraph about each of these three issues: ‘Description’, ‘Justification’ and ‘Design Principles’. The second page gives a vague shadow drawing of a huge block or blocks in the place of the current buildings. 

1.   Firstly this is not an adequate amount of time or information for the community to read, understand , digest  and examine the implications of such a massive plan. This can be seen by the small number of community responses to the SPD. Surely changes of this magnitude cannot be accepted on the basis of numbers of responses  in double figures when there are over 8000 people living in the area?

2.   Secondly, all the buildings in the chapter called ‘Site Specific Principles’  are to be replaced with new buildings.  Much of the plans arguments for this demolition are simplistic and debatable such as there is a lack of clarity about what is the front or the back of the property” (Crane and Zangwill) or the property “is currently in a prominent gateway position and the current development does not capitalise on this” (William Dunbar and William Saville Houses). This needs to be properly examined, each building on its own merit, before lives are disrupted for years and changed forever.

3.   Thirdly, you are deciding on Monday 19 June 2017 that this SPD replaces the one was developed over some years WITH the South Kilburn Community and then voted on. How can a plan created by the Council and its consultants replace a plan voted on by residents? The 2005 SPD may need updating with changes to law occurring since the first was voted on but the scale and magnitude of the changes make this SPD beyond all recognition of the SK residents plan
Therefore I ask the Cabinet to please delay the acceptance of this plan and help support the community  to review THEIR 2005 Masterplan in a long term in-depth manner as befits a document of this size and importance and with such huge ramification for the residents of South Kilburn.

Leslie Barson and Deirdre Woods representing the Users of Granville and Carlton

Greens: 'Let's hear May calling this latest terrorist atrocity for what it is'

The Green Party has responded to the suspected terrorist incident in north London
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party co-leader, said:
My thoughts and prayers go to every person directly affected by this attack and to Muslim communities right across the country. Once again our amazing emergency services appear to have responded with diligence and deserve our gratitude for their life saving action.

This was an attack directed at Muslims but it was also an attack on all of us. In the past month, the people of this country have shown enormous resilience and unity in response to some truly horrific events and it is that unity and togetherness that will make us stronger as we face down these threats.

This attack plays into the hands of terrorists and threatens to exacerbate a downward spiral of even greater violence. The prime minister must avoid knee-jerk responses that might appear tough on paper but end up handing terrorists a victory they crave: a curtailment of our freedoms.
Dr Shahrar Ali, Green Party home affairs spokesperson, said:
We are appalled and shocked by the heinous and barbaric terrorist attack on unwitting Muslims in the early hours of today outside Finsbury Park mosque. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected and their families, no less in the month of Ramadan.

Now as ever a strong, zero tolerance approach must be adopted towards rising hate crime directed at Muslims and all faith communities. The Islamophobic intent of the striker of terror today needs to brought out into the open not minimised or covered up.

I shall continue to call out double standards amongst our media reports and politicians' half-baked statements when I see them. These biases only risk to exacerbate the problem and add to injury by fuelling resentment amongst minorities affected that they aren't being treated equally. Let's hear from Theresa May calling this latest terrorist atrocity for what it is.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Barry Gardiner invites Brent tower block residents to fire safety meeting on Monday

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North has invited residents of tower blocks in Brent to a meeting on Monday 19th June 7.30pm at St James Church Alperton, 34 Stanley Avenue, HA0

In the letter he tells the residents that the primary purpose of the meeting will be to listen to existing concerns about fire safety matters and how suggestions and complaints are handled.

The Borough Fire Commander and Brent Council Chief Executive have been invited or to send substitutes along with the Chief executives of local Housing Associations.

Gardiner states:
Such tragedies (Grenfell Tower) are less likely to happen when there is transparency and good communications between residents and manager of the property. It is my hope that the meeting can help ensure that this is the case.
Gardiner's initiative is welcome, particularly as Brent Council response in the Guardian/Observer today LINK seems to cast doubt on the earlier comment it made to the Kilburn Times LINK.

The Guardian:
 Councils in Coventry, Sandwell, and the London boroughs of Newham and Brent were unable to say if they had carried out any inspections or even how many tower blocks they had.
The Kilburn Times:
In a report shown to the Brent&Kilburn Times, housing chiefs have set up a six-point action plan which includes checks that claddings applied to the outside of buildings are fire rated.

They are also liaising with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to seek clarity and guidance around the “self evacuation” vs “stay put” briefing as many block residents are told to stay in their properties in the event of a fire.
The inclusion of Housing Associations in Monday's meeting is important because several of our local ones are now in the business of 'building to rent' or acting as managers for sites built by others. LINK