We have received an ‘indicative capital programme‘ for the 2019-2020 accounting year. This shows that the planned works for Palace Road Estate are in four categories: (i) externals, (ii) water tanks and boosters, (iii) communal heating / distribution / control and (iv) electrics. No other Lambeth estate has work planned in as many as four categories. The draft programme will go to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee for their approval.
Perhaps as a result of our request during the visit of Chuka Umunna MP to the estate, the council has carried out an inspection to see what work is required to renovate the external elements of the buildings. The report can be downloaded here.
The report says that the following work is necessary:
- Total replacement of the roofs.
- Replacement of windows, including patio/balcony doors.
- Upgrading of doors to flats to meet fire safety standards.
- Repairs to balconies, “including timber replacement and replacement or alternative glazing”.
This work, together with the necessary structural repairs, is estimated to cost in the region of £10.5 million. We have been told that this work will form part of Lambeth’s capital works programme over several years, starting in the 2019-2020 budgetary year.
We have been provided with a report on a structural inspection that was carried out on 31st May and 1st June 2018. The inspection was made by structural engineers employed by Lambeth Council. It makes a number of interesting observations:
- Lack of routine maintenance, including painting timber cladding, repairing minor cracks in masonry and replacing damaged windows and glass panels on the balconies.
- Water ingress in concrete structural elements (lintels and floor slabs) leading to pieces of concrete falling from heights, leading to “health & safety risks to the residents and visitors to the buildings.”
- “A system of tree management should be set up and put in place to manage the trees in the estate in consultation with Lambeth’s Trees Section.” This comment will come as a surprise to service charge payers who are regularly charged significant sums for tree maintenance.
Despite the reported immediate risks from falling pieces of concrete, the council chose not to inform residents until their letter about initial works to make the concrete safe in mid-July.
The report asserts that “None of the defects mentioned above is considered as impairing the structural stability and integrity of the buildings at present.” However, since the inspection excluded the garages, above which many of the flats are built, PRERA has requested that the garages are also inspected.
The committee have just been informed that the recent work to the Baly House balconies is intended to be permanent. Furthermore, several residents have apparently expressed their “joy and satisfaction with the new balcony panels”. Do you share this view, or do you think the new panels are an eyesore? Let us know.
Naturally, we have asked why this work was carried out without planning permission and without consulting or informing the residents. We will pass on any answers we get.
Last week some of the balconies on Baly House had their glass and wood removed and replaced with metal sheeting. This work was planned and undertaken without consultation with residents or PRERA, so it is not clear what is going on.
PRERA have asked the council these specific questions:
- What is the scope of the current works on the balconies? Has Baly House been identified as requiring the most urgent repair work? Which other balconies will be treated similarly with the metal sheeting, and when?
- What is the timescale for renovation of all the balconies in the original materials (wood and glass).
- When and how will residents be notified of the work on their balconies?
In addition, PRERA has raised concerns about stacks of glass, some of it broken, being left on the grass or leaning up against walls.
While PRERA has been campaigning for years for the balconies to be repaired and made safe, we want this work to be carried out in a safe, cost-effective and well-planned manner.
The PRERA committee have heard, informally, that the council is moving towards the renovation of the balconies across the estate. This is something that the committee has been campaigning for for years, due to their dangerously decrepit state.
We are told that a contractor has been chosen and will replace a small section of balustrade as a trail. We have enquired about whether planning permission is required and whether a Section 20 consultation should have been carried out. (If the cost is over £250 per leaseholder, then leaseholders must be consulted.) We will pass on further information when we hear it.