Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Latest Quadrant Court fire safety reviews

 First Port, the Property Manageent Service for Quadrant Court, have sent to following to leaseholders and residents. (August 22nd)
Fire Safety and ACM Cladding on the feature column of Quadrant Court
The following information has been issued to keep you fully abreast of the current position in respect of the building in the unlikely event of a fire at the property.
Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower we have carried out some reviews of the building that we manage, in line with Government (DCLG) advice.
Through this review it has been established that the two storey maroon feature column to the left hand side of the main entrance on Empire Way is clad in an Alucabond material that is classified as ACM. This element relates to a localised and isolated part of the building façade and was confirmed as ACM via the government’s first suggested testing procedure. At this juncture this should not give rise to undue concern albeit that we are considering whether any action is necessary. The blue arrow on photo below shows the maroon panelling so that it is clear what we are referring to. 

On receiving this information we contacted the Fire and Rescue Services and also notified the building’s insurers to establish if any immediate action was required. Initial findings are that no immediate action is necessary.
You may have heard it reported that the Government has produced an updated document, setting out fresh guidelines for testing procedure/s. This includes testing the entire cladding system and not just the exterior cladding material.
This is important as the systems behind this cladded facia can be key to the structure’s performance in the event of a fire, and the nature of this system can differ significantly from building to building.
The installation details for this feature column are different to those that have been discussed in the media.
In the interim we pro-actively invited the Fire Brigade to carry out an inspection of the building in order to ascertain if there was anything further we can do to enhance fire safety at Quadrant Court. Thankfully they were happy with the processes and strategy we have in place and were satisfied that we operate the development correctly and efficiently in terms of fire safety.
Nevertheless, taking into account the guidance issued by the Fire Brigade at other affected comparable buildings, we have instructed additional patrols of the building by the onsite staff during the night time and I can confirm that these have begun. These will stay in place until further notice.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all that a “stay put” policy is in operation at Quadrant Court in the unlikely event of a fire. Homes and developments such as Quadrant Court are built with fire compartmentation, which is designed to resist the passage of fire between the walls and doors giving ample time for the fire services to arrive.
In this way, the fire service are given plenty of time to assess risks and ensure that, if needed, any evacuation is managed in a safe and orderly fashion.
In addition, the communal corridors and escape passages at Quadrant Court are equipped with smoke ventilation systems to improve conditions for means of escape and fire-fighting by limiting obscuration and toxicity in the common escape routes. These systems are tested regularly and in line with manufacturers recommendations.
We understand that there may be concerns around the “stay put” policy at this time. The following remains the guidance from the London Fire Brigade:
“If there is a fire inside your apartment leave, closing the door behind you and call 999. If there is a fire elsewhere in the building, and not inside your own apartment their advice is to stay put. The Fire Service will carry out an evacuation of the other apartments if necessary.”
Further information can be found on out.asp.
We also ask that residents ensure they remove anything that is combustible on their balconies. This is of course a stipulation in your lease but as is apparent from walking around the building there are a number of residents that continue to breach this lease requirement. Barbeques and storing items other than small garden furniture are examples of such breaches. In light of the above, we would ask that you comply with this instruction as a matter of urgency.
Fire safety should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and to that end please ensure you are comfortable with the fire procedures, know where the nearest fire exit is and make sure the smoke alarms in your apartment are tested regularly and replaced every 10 years. It is also good practice to close all your apartment’s internal doors when you go to bed at night.
We will advise if any specific action or change is needed and we will continue to keep you updated in relation to this matter. Meanwhile, we will also continue to track any findings or new guidelines and take the appropriate actions.
Finally, should you have any further general questions or queries we would in the first instance refer you to the enclosed statement and guidance relating to fire safety. However, should you have any questions that are not answered by this document then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Brent to save £0.45m annually be letting large sections of parks turn into meadow land

Yellow areas will become 'meadow'
I can reveal that large sections of Brent parks which are currently lawn will be turned into 'meadow land' as a result of changes in the Council's contact with Veolia. The reduction in maintenance will produce annual  'savings' of £450,000. 

In response to my query about the policy an officer gave this response:
I'm unable to provide maps for all the affected parks at this stage as we're currently updating all of them but a list of sites is provided below:

·        Roundwood Park
·        Neasden Recreation Ground
·        Gladstone Park
·        Barham Park
·        King Edward Park
·        Silver Jubilee Park
·        Roe Green
·        One Tree Hill
·        Woodcock Park
·        Preston Park
·        Lindsay Park
·        Sudbury Court Open Space
·        Elmwood
·        St Raphael’s Open Space
·        Northwick Park
·        Church Lane Recreation Ground
·        Tokygnton Recreation Ground
·        Kenton Grange
·        Leybourne Road Open Space
·        Eaton Grove
·        Abbey Estate
·        Tookey Close

I can confirm Veolia will continue to maintain the sites as part of the Council’s Public Realm Contract.  The current plans are to allow the various grass species to grow, with the meadow areas being cut once a year in order to prevent self sett trees, brambles, etc. taking hold.  Grass cuttings will be collected as part of this.

The case for creating wildlife havens was not the specific subject of any committee reports; they are covered as part of the need to achieve contract savings in 2017/18 as agreed under item 7 at the Full Council meeting on 27 February.  Further details, including minutes of the meeting, are available on the Council’s website 
The changes are part of a £900k cut. The Officer's budget report stated:
Any change in operations may be noticeable to residents used to familiar and established work practices. However, these changes are specifically intended to improve environmental standards overall.
Officers have made an attempt to justify the change on environmental grounds:

These grass meadow areas will now be cut once per year as part of a number of programmes that aim to make the borough cleaner and greener.  Letting the grass grow aims to create wildlife havens, increase biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions. This programme will be supported by the launch of the Brent Wildlife Watch website later this summer. All parks will retain some areas that will be kept maintained in a traditional way.
There has been no public consultation about the change and no reports by specialist horticulturalists or biodiversity officers that could be scrutinised by councillors of the public. These are changes that will change the appearance of our parks substantially.

Brent does have meadow land at Fryent Country Park (actually certified organic) and the Welsh Harp Open Space but these are long established - turning formal lawns into 'meadow' just by letting the grass grow long  is a different proposition. It does does not create an environmentally friendly wild flower meadow of the type that can be seen at Westminster University, Northwick Park.

It is noteworthy that despite the claim that 'wildlife havens' will be created there is no mention of wildflowers, a vital component of such havens. Proper wildflower meadows have to be created and diligently maintained as this publication from Newcastle City Council states LINK

Since the end of the Second World War, Britain's wildflower meadows have decreased by more than 90 per cent. This has been due to changes in farming practice, urban expansion and development.
Although we cannot recreate traditional wildflower meadows in a short period of time, it is possible to create species rich grasslands and meadows, which are beneficial to our native wildlife in the urban environment.
There is no simple strategy for creating wildflower meadows in urban environments. The type of meadow created and method used to create and manage them will vary with conditions, habitat and budget. It is extremely important to remember that all grasslands and meadows require some form of management for them to be successful. If areas of fertile (nutrient rich) grassland are left unmanaged they will rapidly become overgrown with a few dominant species of tall grasses, nettles, docks, brambles, thistles etc. The wildflowers soon disappear as they become smothered by the more dominant species and deprived of light, water and space.
Creation of such meadows requires investment while Brent's aim is to save money. Unless the Council can provide more detail of their strategy I am afraid  I think we will end up with overgrown areas dominated by a single species like many a neglected back garden.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Download Brent Recycleopedia App for recycling options

This is a year old now but the App is useful. I downloaded to a Windows phone in a few seconds.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The sad decline of King Edward VII park in Wembley

On the day that Brent planning officers issued final approval for Tottenham Hotspurs' increase in full capacity events at the Stadium LINK I had sight of several emails from residents about the deterioration of King Edward VII Park on Park Lane.

As emissions from heavy vehicles, noise and dust pervade the area because of all the demolition and building work in the area King Eddies has become more important as a peaceful haven.

However budget cuts mean that the park itself is no longer regularly patrolled by wardens, waste paper bins are not emptied, graffiti has appeared on benches, and late night social drinking has increased with associated littering.

The long running drainage problem LINK remains and may have been worsened by the paving over of back gardens in houses bordering the park.  The Council is trying to persuade Thames Water to renew the main pipe.

One resident wrote:
  1. Drug dealing - we have an ongoing problem with Drug Dealers dealing in the Park from approx 12.00 noon till late evening.  Despite numerous and consistent efforts by our local SNT the problem is ongoing.   They have no qualms about dealing in full view of the public, smoking around the children's play area.  The Police do not have the resources to be there everyday to deter and disrupt these youths.
  2. Anti-Social Behaviour - there are still a hardcore group of drinkers who visit the park daily, especially early evening and remain long after the park is supposedly locked at night.  No only do they smash bottles and leave cans and cigarette butts all around, the are not averse to using anywhere as a public toilet.  It has been noted on many occasions that some are so drunk they think nothing of exposing themselves in broad daylight urinating in full view of park users.  This has to be stopped immediately.
  3. In recent years we have had 4 stabbings in King Eddies, numerous Robbery's of phones and gold jewellery from young Asian mums who have been threatened with violence against their children in pushchairs to give up their possessions, again totally unacceptable, many of which now avoid the park at all costs. 
Although there are currently no funds for it one suggestion coming from residents is the refurbishment of the pavilion to include toilets. Having no toilet facilities available is a disincentive to use of the sports pitches,

King Edward VII Park was formerly a Green Flag winner but Brent Council withdrew from that scheme when it out-sourced parks maintenance to Veolia - it would not merit the ward at the moment.

Surely with millions being spent on the Quintain redevelopment sime CIL funds could be found to bring the park up to standard?

Friday, 18 August 2017

Garden trip to Willesden Green station with cake and silly socks

From Willesden Green Town Team

Never mind the failure of the Garden Bridge, we have a Garden Platform you can walk on - 2 even...

On Sunday 20th August, 4-5.30pm:
  • spend your old pound coins and look in close up at the plants on the platforms;
  • buy a slice of cake;
  • or some silly socks (think early Xmas stockings) ;
  • or a 'Keep Willesden Green Clean' bag.

Make your Wish at the Wishbone. 

All proceeds towards Willesden Greening.

Small groups will be personally escorted onto the Garden Platforms by a volunteer gardener

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Huge turnout at Genesis/Notting Hill HA merger tenants' meeting

Genesis marketing of Brent House

I hear that there was a great turnout at yesterday's meeting about the proposed merger of Genesis and Notting Hill Housing associations with the church venue unable to hold all the tenants and leaseholders wishing to attend.

There was vociferous opposition to the merger plans with many seeing this as a turn away from a social enterprise model towards a profit-making business model which would result in property sales, higher rents, lack of security and building for market rather than affordable prices.

In a vote at the end of the meeting there were more than 100 votes against the merger and none for.

I hope to carry more detailed information later.

See more about the Notting Hill Housing chief's 'embrace of the market' HERE

Statement on the merger by Genesis and Notting Hill Housing (July 20th)

Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing Association have agreed in principle to merge, a move that would create one of the country's largest housing associations.

The boards of both organisations agreed the merger proposal yesterday (Wednesday 19 July), which they felt was the best decision for both businesses, their residents, their shareholders and for London and the South East.

The new organisation, Notting Hill Genesis, will have 54,000 homes across London and 64,000 across London and the South East, half of which will be general needs homes with social or affordable rents.

The new organisation will serve a total of 170,000 residents and be the largest provider of shared ownership tenure in the country.

Financially, this merger will bring together two substantial organisations to make a new and stronger entity. We have combined reserves of £3.1 billion and loan facilities of £3.5 billion. We are generating turnover of about £700m and a net surplus of more than £120 million. This financial strength will enable the delivery of around 2,700 new homes a year, 400 more than would be achievable separately.

Both organisations believe passionately that their shared heritage makes this a good match. Both Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing were founded in different forms during the 1960s by people of faith in west London, with the aim of housing the working poor and giving them a secure home with which to build their future.

While both evolved over time, building significant commercial interests and merging with others, the core purpose remains unchanged: to provide quality homes to low income households across London and beyond.

Dipesh J. Shah OBE, from Genesis, is Chair Designate of the new organisation. Paul Hodgkinson, from Notting Hill Housing, had recently extended his term of office to oversee the transition to merger, but never intended to remain past that point.

Kate Davies from Notting Hill Housing has been named Chief Executive Designate, with Elizabeth Froude, currently Genesis Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Resources, being appointed Deputy Chief Executive Designate.

Notting Hill Genesis Chair Designate, Dipesh Shah, said: “Uniting two associations with a common culture, a common vision and an aspiration to enrich their social purpose augurs well for the future of the merged entity. I look forward very much to being part of it and to helping the new organisation on its journey.”

Kate Davies, Chief Executive Designate, said: “Bringing together two housing associations with similar backgrounds, shared values and a strong social purpose will allow us to provide more of the homes London needs, for those who most need them.

“This is an exciting challenge for all of us and I’m very much looking forward to leading this new organisation, which has the will and resources to be even more innovative, ambitious and influential together than we could separately.”

In line with the commitment to a merger of equals, Neil Hadden decided not to apply for the role of Chief Executive (Designate) of Notting Hill Genesis, due to the fact that Dipesh was appointed Chair (Designate).  Neil will remain as Genesis Chief Executive until the merger is complete in early 2018.
Genesis Chief Executive Neil Hadden added: “I have always believed that there should be more consolidation within the sector so that our capacity can be utilised better to provide more homes and improved services for our customers. To that end, this merger makes complete sense and I am pleased to have been involved in getting it off the ground. I look forward to continuing to lead Genesis until the merger is complete in early 2018.”

Deputy Chief Executive Designate, Elizabeth Froude, said: "I am very pleased to be taking up this role in what will be a fantastic organisation, built on the legacy of two housing associations with deep and common roots and purpose. We will take the best of both to allow us to continue to deliver a good service to our many and diverse customer groups, in the ever complex environment in which we operate.

"I believe this merger will bring us the resilience to be innovative in how we adapt our services to meet the demands of our current and future customers."

Butt fronts Quintain's Alto celebration

Quintain PR coup - Geoff Hurst and Muhammed Butt
Residents, and there are many, concerned about the close relationship between Quintain and Brent Council and its leader Muhammed Butt, are unlikely to be reassured by a public relations event coming up on September 14th.

Muhammed Butt will be speaking at the event which celebrates Quintain's 362 home Alto development that, needless to say, does not include any homes that are affordable for the average Brent resident.

Drinks and canapes will be served from 6pm, speeches at 6.15pm and tours of the Alto development from 4pm. The event ends at 8pm.

Back in 2013 Brent Council did look as if it might put up some resistance to Quintain's demands LINK but that quickly fizzled out leaving Brent residents, particularly those on the housing list, losers to this rather special relationship. Quintain's planning applications have sailed through Brent Planning Committee regardless of opposition from the local community.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Sheffield Greens respond to Labour Council's tree protest ban

Sheffield Greens are very disappointed that today the High Court ruled in favour of granting an injunction aimed at preventing peaceful protesting against the Council’s tree felling programme. The injunction was taken out against Green Councillor Alison Teal, two other named campaigners, and ‘persons unknown’. It comes into force on August 22nd.

The ruling, handed down this morning, means that tree campaigners will not legally be permitted to continue standing up for Sheffield’s street trees and for local residents by preventing the felling of healthy street trees.

Reacting the the verdict, Cllr Teal has vowed to continue opposing the Council’s plans, despite the injunction, and expressed dismay at the Council’s heavy handed and unnecessarily aggressive tactics:
I am very disappointed with this outcome, but will continue to do all that I can to save Sheffield trees. Sheffield Greens will not stop standing up for residents and communities who do not want this disastrous and unpopular tree felling programme to go on.

I would like to thank my legal team for their excellent work, and for all the messages of support I have received. In the short term, we will of course be looking into possible avenues of appeal against this decision.

It never had to come to this. The Council say that this action was a ‘last resort’, but in truth they have wasted time and taxpayers’ money on this needless, aggressive action when all they had to do was acknowledge residents’ concerns and to mediate with us.

In this, the case of Sheffield City Council vs The People, it is democracy and the residents of Sheffield who have lost. This decision by the high court is very worrying, as the right to peaceful protest has been fundamentally threatened.

The Council’s disastrous and unpopular tree felling programme continues to be a story of national and international embarrassment for our city.

Worthwhile jobs with Sufra NW London foodbank

Fancy a worthwhile job for an extremely successful worthwhile project in Brent?

Here goes…
Office Administrator (24 hours/week)
£18,000 pro-rata
To deal with the hustle and bustle at Sufra NW London’s offices, we need an extra pair of hands to help out on a part-time basis with general administration from 9:30am to 2:30pm on weekdays. Perfect for a mum or dad with parenting responsibilities. But beware: you need to be organised and thick-skinned to deal some rather impertinent characters!

Deadline: 15 September 2017
For more information, click here.
Community Garden & Learning Coordinator (full-time) - £25,000

St. Raphael’s Edible Garden, our new food growing space, is almost built!

In preparation for the finale, we’re looking to recruit a Community Garden & Learning Coordinator who will design and deliver a fantastic horticulture programme with lots of new courses, events and activities.

The successful candidate will be an experienced gardener/horticulturalist with teaching and project management experience.

Deadline: 29 September 2017

For more information, click here.
Marketing & Community Fundraising Officer (full-time) - £22,000-£25,000

Keeping the food bank running throughout the year is hard work. And we want to make sure everyone knows about Sufra NW London and is able to support our work in whatever way they can.

We’re recruiting a Marketing & Community Fundraising Officer to raise the profile of the charity, oversee a regular schedule of fundraising activities and build new links and partnerships with local organisations, companies and places of worship.

Deadline: 29 September 2017

For more information, click here.
ESOL Teacher (sessional post)
Rate negotiable

As part of Sufra NW London’s work in supporting newly-arrived Syrian refugees, we are looking for an experienced, Arabic-speaking ESOL teacher to deliver basic English language skills training for adults.

The post will initially commence with a weekly 2-hour class on a weekday evening, with additional hours made available as the programme expands.

Deadline: 15 September 2017 (but applications will be considered immediately and an appointment made in advance of the deadline if a suitable candidate is found)

For more information, click here.

Fire Safety meeting tonight at Bernard Shaw House