Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association Annual Report 2016 to 2017
Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ & Residents’ Association has undertaken the following activities on behalf of all tenants and leaseholders during the period since our last AGM in September 2016:
- Campaign to stop the closure of the Community Centre
- Negotiations with Hyde for Licence to Occupy the Community Centre until July 2018
- Day to day management of the Centre
- New organisational structure for the management of Hyde Southbank Homes including Kennington Park Estate
- Fire Risk Assessments
- Service charge scrutiny and review
- CCTV monitoring service: Proposal from Hyde to procure a new (costly) system
- Redevelopment of the gas holder site
- Cleaning and grounds maintenance
- SCCC (the Oval) proposal to increase seating capacity to over 32,000
- Parking enforcement
- Legal advice for tenants
Campaign to stop the closure of the Community Centre
Proposed development on the site of the Kennington Park Community Centre
It is now three years since Hyde announced its intention to redevelop the site of the Community Centre along with the site of the old depot fronting Harleyford Street. On behalf of residents, the TA made clear to Hyde our many objections to Hyde’s proposals for the redevelopment of the site. The main focus of residents and the TA at the time was to ensure the future of the Community Centre and to protect nearby residents from the noise, disruption and the many dangers and risks associated with a construction site. The intervention of the TA and the response of the Planning Department at the Council made it clear that Hyde had to think again. Throughout most of 2016 the TA pressed Hyde for up to date information about Hyde’s plans for the site with little response.
Negotiations with Hyde for Licence to Occupy the Community Centre until July 2018
However, towards the end of 2016, Hyde shocked us all with its decision to stop running community centres. The TA immediately started our campaign to stop Hyde from closing the KPE Community Centre and linked up with our fellow Hyde residents in Stockwell to support them in defending the Stockwell Centre. Over six months, in the course of many meetings, detailed discussions and intensive negotiation, the TA gained agreement from Hyde to delay the proposed closure of the Community Centre; with the TA taking responsibility for day-to-day management, and Hyde, as the owner of the building, maintaining its legal responsibilities, such as safety requirements, essential repairs etc.
As a result of all those meetings, and with the agreement of TA members, the TA signed a Licence to Occupy the Community Centre from July 2017 to July 2018.
A celebration day was arranged at the end of July with the support of Simply Smiley Productions and AkomaAsa Performing Arts Academy. The celebration was advertised across the Estate and children and parents joined in an afternoon of games and entertainment as well as the painting of a mural for the Community Centre at the Harleyford Street entrance. Children were thrilled and fascinated when a fire engine arrived and they took turns in operating the high pressure hose then climbing on board to sit inside the cab.
Residents will have seen that the happy, hip turtle depicted in the first mural has been joined by elephants further along the wall, painted for us by a renowned, celebrity artist from South Africa.
Management of the Community Centre
Day to day management is a major responsibility. The TA, has, therefore, been involved in ensuring all the necessary arrangements are in place. As the Community Centre had not been thoroughly cleaned and cleared for years, this had to be attended to as a priority. An equal, if not greater, priority was publicity to advertise the availability of the Community Centre for meetings, events, rehearsals, etc. A website for the Community Centre was swiftly organised and key information about hiring the facilities carefully produced and quickly published on the website. New bookings, generating much needed income, have been secured with more in the pipeline. The aim of the TA is to demonstrate that our Community Centre is a financially viable concern and must either remain as it is or be replaced in any future plans for the redevelopment of the site. The TA will keep residents informed.
New Hyde management structure
Hyde has recently undertaken a major restructure of housing management. However, no information about the proposed restructure had been published or issued to residents. The detail and the implications of the new management arrangements are, therefore, not clear and residents do not know what to expect. Information gleaned so far suggests that there will no longer be what we know as Housing Officers and no Estate Guardian. Tenancy Advisors will deal with tenancy issues on an appointments basis. All other issues, including repair requests will be made through the Customer Services Call Centre. There will be a Property Services Manager allocated to this Estate responsible for all communal repairs, for communal services and for related enforcement issues. The TA has expressed concern about the restructure, particularly about the lack of communication with residents and the implications for customer service at the local level. By the time of the AGM, Hyde should have issued information to all residents about the new management arrangements.
Service charges scrutiny and review
Tenants and leaseholders across Hyde are aghast about the state of Hyde’s service charge system. The TA wrote direct to the Chair of Hyde Group Board recently pointing out the serious criticisms of the service from a range of engaged residents as follows: “Tenants and leaseholders across the organisation have experienced the same abysmal service and have experienced no or inadequate responses to questions and complaints about inaccurate, unexplained, unjustified service charges for years. This represents very poor customer service by any reckoning.”
He replied to say: “Hyde has a number of projects in hand which will assist with improved data and improved service outcomes, the most significant of which is the introduction of a new service charge system in 2018. This is a large scale and complex piece of work: it will take time for the benefits to flow through the service charge cycle, but an important foundation is being put in place.”
Much too little, much too late. Hyde has known for years that its service charge system is totally inadequate and has failed to commission and implement an appropriate, effective system. Our MP, Kate Hoey, made reference to this abysmally poor performance in an Adjournment Debate in Parliament in March 2017, holding Hyde to account on our behalf.
In recent correspondence with the service charge department in Hyde, TA Officers made it clear that:
It is completely unacceptable, both morally and legally, that residents have to suffer for this incompetence.
The current failure to respond adequately in a timely and clear manner is in breach of Hyde’s commitment to provide transparency and accountability.
Fire Risk Assessments
Towards the end of 2016, when service charge invoices were received by the TA for scrutiny, the cost to residents of a Fire Risk Assessment report for each block on KPE was identified as an issue for further enquiry. The TA, therefore, requested sight of the FRAs. We were concerned at the inaccuracies and lack of clarity we discovered and had a meeting with a senior person from the ‘external expert’ organisation commissioned to undertake Fire Risk Assessments. His comments about the status and basic purpose of Fire Risk Assessments raised fundamental doubts about their validity. It was therefore, a welcome development to learn that Hyde also had doubts about the Assessments and was in the process of undertaking an audit and review of them. TA Officers are in detailed discussions with the responsible Contract Manager in Hyde and available to respond to queries and concerns from residents.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, we are acutely conscious of our responsibility to residents to ensure our social landlord listens and acts on all our concerns; and we expect Hyde to take its responsibilities equally seriously.
CCTV monitoring system
As reported to our residents many times by the TA, 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. The TA has pursued two formal complaints through the full Hyde complaints process. Hyde appears to have brushed aside all those concerns and is now planning to impose a costly new CCTV system and charge us what will undoubtedly be increasing costs of 24/7 monitoring. Many residents are not convinced a new system is required, particularly not at the cost of a huge hike in service charges. Work is in hand with HSH residents in Stockwell to work together to challenge this unwelcome proposal.
Development of the gas holder site
Discussions continue between Berkeley Homes and the Council about the future of the gas holder site. At the beginning of this year the TA learned that the Council did not agree with the proposed Berkeley Homes master plan for the site and very little has been heard since then. However, before Berkeley Homes was asked to think again, the TA scored a major success in persuading Berkeley Homes to include in the plans a pedestrian route through into the new development direct from our Estate. The TA will hold all concerned to this significant commitment in the course of discussions about amended plans for the site and will keep a watching brief, making interventions and representations on behalf of residents of Kennington Park Estate throughout the process.
Cleaning and grounds maintenance contract
Cleanscapes and Groundscapes, the new cleaning and grounds maintenance contractor started in October last year. The TA has been monitoring performance on the contract and liaising closely with the Contract Manager. Unhappily, although the Contract Manager is helpful and responsive, the contractor is sometimes slow to respond. While the service is an improvement on that provided by the previous contractor, residents are disappointed. Plus, after many requests to Hyde for clarity on the exact cost of the new contract, clear figures have not yet been provided. In the course of procurement of the new contract, Hyde’s promise to residents was that there would be better value for money and savings compared with the previous costs. Figures available so far appear to suggest that costs have increased.
Surrey County Cricket Club (The Oval)
SCCC recently revealed plans to increase seating capacity by some 8,000, from the current 23,000 to over 32,000 to compete with Lords. KPE residents are aware of the significant disruption to our whole area by the sheer number of spectators descending on us on big match days. Do we want any more? Is it sustainable in this small area? What will be the effect of more tall stands in front of our homes? SCCC intends to submit the planning application in February and have offered to attend the TA’s November meeting to discuss it with residents. We will of course consult with residents and submit a response.
As discussed in last year’s Annual Report, Wing Parking (Parking Enforcement and Management Services) was appointed by HSH and started enforcement patrols and activities in October. The TA monitors Wing’s performance closely. 24/7 enforcement patrolling is critical. As processing the financial penalty through the court is extremely slow, offenders get the impression there are no consequences. Residents who do follow the rules are rightly incensed. The TA is currently involved in trying to ensure consultation about parking enforcement in Grace and Brockwell Houses is correctly undertaken.
Tenants with serious outstanding repair problems can contact the TA to be referred to a solicitor, who may be in a position to pursue the case on a no win, no fee basis.
KPETRA Annual Report, September 2017