As quickly as it arrived, the mystery concrete has vanished, replaced with soil. Who knows why it visited us for three weeks, or how much its visit cost council tax payers? PRERA will seek answers to these and other questions in the hope that similar destructive and wasteful operations are not carried out in the future.
Over the weekend a section of the grassed area at the entrance to Bushell Close was dug up and concrete poured in. This has created a new paved area that residents suspect will be used for storing bins. Understandably, residents who enjoy having a view of attractive gardens rather than rubbish bins are angry and worried about this.
It seems that residents were not consulted about this new construction in any way and planning permission has not been sought. The committee is urgently trying to find out what is going on and will provide an update through this blog once we learn more.
Update on 21/3/19: A formal complaint has been made to the council by PRERA about this new concrete.
Update on 26/3/19: After representations made to the council by residents, PRERA and ward councillors, we have been told that “this construction relates to the development of new refuse chambers required as a result of FRA [fire risk assessment] recommendations”. We have not been told who arranged for this work to be done or why there was no consultation, but we have been told that the Head of Repairs Projects will be reviewing the suitability of the site and, if appropriate, the development will be relocated.
Update on 28/3/19: PRERA has been informed that this concrete will be removed next week.
Update on 5/4/19: A resident has been informed this morning, through Cllr Atkins, that the removal of the concrete will commence today and be completed tomorrow. The area should be relaid with turf.
Update on 8/4/19: The work to remove the concrete will now start on Wednesday, we are told. This is because the machinery required was not available at the weekend.
Update on 10/4/19: Work has still not started to remove the concrete. PRERA will continue to pursue the council on this.
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.
As we have recently heard, there is a problem with some of the concrete that is present in the flats. Corrosion of the steel inside has caused flakes of concrete to fall from the surface of the concrete. This is an obvious safety hazard and we are glad to hear that the council is now going to carry out works to make the concrete safe. Notices about the works have just appeared around the estate – see below.
PRERA will continue to press the council for details of plans to carry out repairs to the surface of the concrete and to carry out preventative maintenance that will reduce the penetration of water into the concrete.
The committee has been informed of a hazard on the estate that we weren’t previously aware of – falling concrete. This can be added to the list of hazards that includes sheets of glass falling from the balconies, holes in the ground and disintegrating wooden and PVC boxing.
Apparently, the reinforcing rods within the concrete slabs in the blocks of flats are corroding, causing flakes of concrete to fall down. Please be aware of this hazard and do not spend time standing under such concrete lintels and balconies.
PRERA has asked the council when repair work will be carried out to this and other long-standing maintenance issues. We also asked how and when residents would be informed of health and safety hazards that had been identified by the council.