Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ & Residents’ Association Annual Report 2017-18
Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ & Residents’ Association’s Officers have undertaken a variety of activities on behalf of all tenants and leaseholders over the past year:
Our Community Centre
Following our successful campaign to stop Hyde closing our Community Centre (KPCC Oval), we negotiated an agreement with Hyde by which the TRA took responsibility for the day to day management of the Centre, and in July last year we signed a Licence to Occupy the Centre for 12 months. Our aim was not just to keep the Centre open but also to demonstrate that it is a financially viable concern which must continue to operate for the benefit of our local community, and that it must be replaced if any plans to redevelop the site are proposed.
Earlier this year Hyde indicated there were no immediate alternative plans for the site and this was unlikely to change for three years. After discussions it was agreed that we could be given a longer lease as long as an independent, formally registered, limited liability community organisation was established to take responsibility. The TRA’s April meeting approved this. Consequently, some weeks ago a formal application was made to the Financial Conduct Authority to register Kennington Park Community Centre as a Charitable Community Benefit Society, and our registration was formally confirmed by the FCA at the beginning of September. A formal Board of Trustees is being established.
Negotiations with Hyde are in progress on the detail of the terms and conditions of our future legal agreements.
Over the past year we have turned the Centre into a financially sustainable and popular venue. We have been pleased to be able to support several special events for our kids – mural painting, a Christmas party and panto, and a week of amazing free summer activities. Our next Christmas party is already being planned.
Cleaning and grounds maintenance
The contract for cleaning and grounds maintenance has now been with Cleanscapes and Groundscapes for two years. The TRA works very closely with the Property Manager on Estate inspections. Progress has been made but much remains outstanding. Similar problems recur over and over again. Balcony cleaning and stair cleaning is a continuous source of complaint communicated very strongly to the contractor. Grounds maintenance also requires attention.
While it is well known that vermin such as rats exist in significant numbers in urban environments, residents in Key and Blythe Houses have been shocked at the infestation experienced for several months last year and this. The situation became so serious that Hyde had to resort to bringing in a marksman to undertake a cull. The TRA undertook research and took advice from expert professionals. Easy access to food is a major attraction for rodents and, in this case, the reason for their survival and rapidly increasing numbers. The Property Manager, with our support, took action to deal with poor refuse management and inadequate cleaning of the refuse enclosures. It is disappointing to report that irresponsible refuse dumping in the area remains a regular occurrence and the schedule of removal of bulk refuse leaves it littered around refuse enclosures often for two days or longer. The Property Manager and the TRA continue to monitor the situation.
Kennington Park Estate Housing Office
As reported at the last AGM, Hyde had undertaken a major restructure of housing management in 2016/17. At the time the detail and the implications of the new management arrangements were not clear and we did not know what to expect. Many residents are still unaware that there is no longer a Housing Officer for the Estate and that tenancy issues and repair requests must now be reported to Customer Services by phone, email or online.
Matt Hopkins is now the Property Services Manager for the Estate responsible for all communal repairs, for communal services and for related enforcement.
The TRA expressed concern about the restructure, particularly about the lack of communication with residents and the implications for customer service at the local level. As residents are only too aware, the changes have resulted in staff shortages at the Housing Office and its frequent closure over the last few months. The TRA has written to senior managers several times to register the strongest objections on behalf of residents. In response, the service from the Housing Office has improved to some extent.
Intervention on repairs: internal + communal
Following the staff restructure, described above, it was unclear to residents, and to the TRA, who was responsible for strategic management and control of repairs. With Matt Hopkins’ support, we were introduced to the Repairs Contract Manager and regular meetings now occur to ensure close monitoring of repairs, particularly high profile repairs which have been reported and not progressed within a reasonable timescale.
Damp and Mould: The Contract Manager has been helpful in intervening with some long outstanding damp and mould issues. This is a very welcome change from the situation discussed last year when reports of serious damp and mould, posing a risk to the health of vulnerable residents, were met with an unhelpful lack of response.
Communal Lights: The Contract Manager is also intervening to speed up communal repairs, focusing on those with safety implications. However, residents will have noticed that repair of communal lighting remains an issue. The TRA has expressed concern, over several years, at the lack of a system for identification of out of order communal lighting and arrangements for repair/light bulb replacement. Our Property Manager has arranged for a thorough, one-off estate wide communal lighting inspection and repair. The TRA continues to press for an effective system of regular inspection and repair.
Estate Inspections and Fire Safety
Matt Hopkins undertakes inspections on a regular basis accompanied by resident representatives. Inspections have focused on ensuring safety on communal balconies as it is essential that residents ensure that these are clear of safety hazards such as personal possessions, bicycles, etc. Arrangements will be made to remove items assessed as a safety risk.
Fire Risk Assessments: The last AGM reported on the work undertaken in response to clearly inaccurate Fire Risk Assessments, and the lengthy correspondence with Hyde. The TRA was pleased to discover recently that the contract with the organisation which produced those misleading FRAs has been terminated and a different contractor appointed. However, KPE has not been informed when to expect the next formal FRA for KPE.
Hangars for secure bike storage
In recognition that it is a fire safety risk to store bicycles on communal balconies and it can no longer be permitted, Matt Hopkins is in the process of making arrangements to install secure bike hangars on the Estate. The Council also proposes to install a bike hangar on Clayton Street and the TRA has contacted the Council to press for more bicycle storage in the roads running through the Estate.
CCTV monitoring service
The contract for the CCTV monitoring service has cost KPE residents a disproportionately large amount in service charges over nine years, compared with the amount charged to Stockwell properties. Hyde senior officers attended our November 2017 meeting to discuss their latest proposal for a new, costly CCTV system on the Estate. Residents challenged the proposal in relation to value for money, lack of justification for a costly, new service, lack of statistical evidence and security impact assessments, compliance with contract tendering rules, resident engagement, fair apportionment of charges, and management of the service.
Residents also expressed the most profound concern about lack of an indication of the likely cost of the installation, along with monitoring and servicing of a state of the art CCTV system. As the cost was the key criterion on which residents would base a decision, consultation had been misleading as residents had not been informed of the potential significant year on year increase in service charges for such a service. Other issues of concern included: (a) the obligation on the part of Hyde to implement the decision of its Complaints Panel which upheld the complaint from KPE, including: “All residents will be provided with clarity about the review of the CCTV contract. All residents will be given the opportunity to feedback their options, including not to have CCTV at all.” And (b) Full consideration of the options agreed with the former Operations Director: (1) a completely separate system for KPE from the HSH Stockwell properties thereby addressing the disproportionate charge imposed on KPE residents; (2) no CCTV service at KPE.
Hyde officers confirmed that no decision had been made and that Hyde would not impose its decision on residents. Our MP recommended the more appropriate course of action of continuing with the current system with minor, cost effective improvements. Hyde agreed to share the contract specification with residents before it was issued. The TA then put on record in writing to Hyde the many remaining matters of concern to KPE residents.
Service charge scrutiny and review
The service charge actuals for 2017/18 should be published and issued to residents this month. Hyde insists a new system has been introduced to ensure elimination of the numerous mistakes made over many years. In August revised service charge statements for 2016/17 were issued to KPE residents in response to very strong representations from the TRA with reference to the inaccuracies of the original statements.
The TRA continues to seek clarification and justification in relation to charges for servicing fire safety equipment and emergency lighting, legionella testing, playground safety inspections, communal lighting inspection and repair, pest control, and as always the disproportionate cost to KPE residents for CCTV monitoring and repair. Some progress has been made and further detail is available from TRA Officers.
Gas Holder Site
The Berkeley Homes planning application for the development of the site was approved by the Council in June this year. The application breached Lambeth planning policies as well as London Plan policies. 170 objections to the plan for the site were received by the Council in comparison with just 20 representations in support. Nevertheless, it was approved.
Work on the site is scheduled to start in 2019 and is likely to impact on residents of Read House very soon as their courtyard is to be used to lift drilling equipment on to the site in the next few weeks. The operation, involving a huge crane mounted on a heavy construction vehicle, is scheduled to take place over a period of up to three days. The details of this imposition on Read courtyard have not been conveyed to the TRA. It appears that a significant area of the courtyard will be cordoned off but arrangements for resident access to their own homes and their parking area have not been made clear.
Over the years there will undoubtedly also be significant implications for residents of Grace and Brockwell Houses as servicing of the construction site is to be undertaken via Vauxhall Street. There is concern about the implications for road safety in this relatively narrow street with its newly installed cycle lane and planted areas.