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Friday, 17 July 2020

The Heating Controversy

Those of us living on the Cremorne Estate are no strangers to problems with the estate's district (communal) heating system. The system has been playing up for many years. Many of the estate's blocks suffered lengthy outages to their heating and hot water in 2017 and 2018. 

There are of course disagreements as to the cause of these problems and outages. Some say the system is too old and hasn't been maintained properly. Others say the performance of the heating maintenance contractor leaves much to be desired. Given that the Cremorne Estate is not the only estate to have suffered severe outages in recent times we would suggest that there is more than a little truth to both of these suggestions - the system probably hasn't been maintained properly and the performance of the contractor probably has left much to be desired. And the two are very clearly related given that the contractor carries out the maintenance. 

Whatever the actual cause of these problems the Council proposes to remedy the situation by carrying out extensive works to the system. These works have been split into two phases. The first phase contains all the works to the boilers and distribution pipework. The second contains all the works within buildings/blocks and inside individual homes. 

The Council recently wrote to all residents with regards to forthcoming major works and described the works as follows (copied verbatim):

Phase 1:

Replace the whole boiler house including all boilers and relevant controls. Total refurbishment. 

Replacement of all pipework involved in the distribution of heating and hot water system throughout the estate running from block to block, but not into the block. 

This phase is to bring all the external heating systems into a good serviceable condition and increase efficiency in its present design.

Phase 2: 

All pipework within each block and into each flat will be replaced.

Redesign the system install additional radiators and controls in line with the current legislation 'Decent Homes Standards'.

This will be a carefully programmed approach as we will need to carry out invasive works within each property. 

The timelines given are 2020-2022 for phase 1 and 2022-2023 for phase 2. 

Phase 1 is not controversial. We are not aware of a single resident who objects in any significant way to the first phase of works. Everyone seems to agree that the works are necessary, precisely because the current system is not in "a good serviceable condition" (for whatever reason). Leaseholders may wish to argue over the costs of the works, in particular as it could be argued that said costs will be abnormally high as a direct result of many years of neglect, but whether they will do so remains to be seen. 

Phase 2 IS controversial. A number of residents have pointed out that the Council's description of the second phase is neither accurate or honest. They have noted that the second phase of works, as proposed will actually be:

1. Extremely expensive. In particular as it involves significant works inside both buildings/blocks and inside people's homes. 

If you're a leaseholder have a good think about this, because you're going to be paying for it. 

2. Extremely disruptive. Precisely because it involves significant works inside people's homes. And they will clearly be much more disruptive than the Council wants to admit. 

In some blocks the distribution pipework runs through people's homes rather than through communal areas or spaces, so even replacing that will be extremely disruptive. Residents are likely to have workmen in their homes for many weeks if not months replacing not only the radiators and pipework serving their homes but also the pipework used for distribution.

And a consultant's report we have had sight of clearly states that to be the case. The report goes as far as to state that it may even be necessary to decant residents during the works. That's a rather extreme definition of the word "intrusive" being used by the Council. 

3. Expensive for all in the longer term. That the additional radiators and controls referred to will include Heat Interface Units and Heat Meters and that their use will result in a significant increase in the cost of heating and hot water and drive many tenants and leaseholders into fuel poverty, something the Council has done before on a number of other estates. 

The Council has rather a lot of form in this regard. 

For example:

The residents of Grenfell Tower were convinced to have their district (communal) heating removed and replaced with individual boilers within their homes (arguably unsafe in a tower block) on the assurance that the new system would be no more expensive. This turned out to be a very blatant lie, the replacement system was a LOT more expensive and many residents were unable to pay to heat their homes as a result. 

And there's a very similar tale of woe at Wiltshire Close. 

Similarly the "hidden homes" flats created on the World's End Estate next door were intentionally removed from the estate's district (communal) heating system for no good reason and despite the opposition and objections from that estate's Residents Association. The tenants who subsequently moved into those "hidden homes" found themselves facing heating costs up to three or four times that of their immediate neighbours. And, unsurprisingly, having committed the dastardly deed neither the Council nor the TMO felt any obligation to either remedy the situation or help the affected tenants and that remains the case to this day. 

And, we suspect, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The Council clearly has no qualms about making tenants and leaseholders fuel poor. It might say it has no intention of doing so but its actions to date clearly say otherwise.  

And again we have had sight of a consultant's report that states that will indeed be the case if the second phase of works proceeds as planned. 

The report states, quite clearly, that some households on the Cremorne Estate are likely to face increases in their heating and hot water charges of up to 300% if Heat Interface Units and Heat Meters are installed and used.

So there are some very obvious issues with the second phase of these works. And they have been brought to the Council's attention, both directly and via the office of Greg Hands MP. And what have the Council done? Not what you might have expected. 

Or perhaps exactly as you might have expected.

The "heating controversy" referred to above is that having been told of these issues and concerns the Council has decided not to engage in a serious, adult conversation with the residents that have pointed them out. Rather it has decided that it would be best to pretend that these issues don't actually exist and suggest that those raising them are being "difficult", "obstructive" or "troublemakers". 

Some members of Council staff have gone as far as to refer to the issues raised as "misinformation" which, given the existence of the two reports from the Council's own consultants, is not only farcical but bordering on the behaviour of Orwell's Ministry of Truth.

And where have we heard this kind of thing before? Oh yes, that's right, at Grenfell. When the tower was refurbished (and clad in highly combustible materials) the Council referred to any residents raising any issues or concerns as "difficult", "obstructive" and "troublemakers". The Council thought it better to insult, demean and denigrate residents than try and address their (clearly justified) concerns. It appears very little has changed.

What the Council should have done is respond to the issues raised by engaging in an open and honest discussion about the scope of the works, the impact they are likely to have on residents and allow residents to be actively involved in making the decisions that may yet mitigate, minimize or even eliminate that impact. 

We appreciate that the Council may not have wanted to have that conversation at this time. But now that the cat is well and truly out of the bag it would be sensible to try and engage in a proper discussion with the residents that treats them as adults. 

Said residents may, unsurprisingly, wish to have some input into a decision process that is likely to have a monumental impact both on their homes and on their lives but is currently completely opaque and in which they have no real involvement. 

Sadly this has not happened. Other than the descriptions of the works quoted above the Council have sent us nothing. And the responses to any residents who have made queries or raised issues are not being provided by technical staff who might actually understand the issues and be able to address them properly but by "resident engagement officers" who clearly haven't a clue and are not beyond simply lying to make the residents and their issues go away.

And referring to any resident as "difficult", "obstructive" or a "troublemaker" suggests the Council has learnt nothing from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, let alone improved in any way as a result. 

But should the Council ever get round to addressing these issues properly we will be more than happy to document their response here. 

We hope for and await something meaningful. But we're not holding our breath. 

Friday, 13 March 2020

Just who is running the show?

A newsletter was distributed across the estate last week that appears to be from the Residents Association but on closer inspection appears to be nothing of the sort.

Our last post noted that the newsletter appears to have been prepared without the knowledge or consent of much of the Residents Association's Committee.

Of the twelve elected Committee members ten have stated that the first time they saw it was when it dropped through their letterbox.

That doesn't sound at all dodgy does it?

A further bit of digging has now revealed that:

  • The newsletter was written with the help of, perhaps even entirely by, Council staff.
  • The newsletter was printed by the Council.
  • The newsletter was distributed by the estate's caretaker, a Council employee. 

And the photo of the recently anointed Chairman gracing the front of the newsletter was clearly taken in the Council's own offices. Probably by a Council officer (we wonder who?).

The Chairman. In the Council's offices.

That all sounds completely legitimate, doesn't it?

It's not as if we have Council staff effectively pretending to be the estate's Residents Association with the help of one particularly "helpful" resident is it? Of course not.

The newsletter states that a "residents meeting" is to take place this evening in the Cremorne Sheltered Clubroom. 

Again, most of the Resident Association's Committee, including the Resident Association's Secretary, knew nothing about it. It's clearly not a meeting called by the Residents Association in any legitimate fashion.

It hasn't been announced or advertised by the Council in any way. So it doesn't appear to be a Council meeting either, although we understand that a number of Council officers intend to be present (why? what for?).

The agenda is apparently going to include a discussion on the future of the Riley Arms pub, a den of iniquity, drug dealing, fencing stolen goods and other petty criminal behaviour at the end of Ann Lane that blights the lives of those living nearby, both on the estate and on the other side of the Kings Road.

The newsletter's author, whoever that may be, and whoever actually organised this meeting, clearly support whatever plans the pub's owners have for the place.

The Council, the freeholder of the property, appears to do so as well.

The only people who don't are the Resident Association Committee, many of the estate's residents and many of the estate's neighbours (and, unsurprisingly, they haven't been invited).

Does anyone else get the impression that the Council is making use of the newly anointed and clearly compliant RA Chairman to rush through unpopular decisions before the estate's residents, or anyone else affected, can do anything about it?

So much for the Council actually caring for its residents. Or having learnt anything from Grenfell.

We do wonder who at the Council thinks this is a good idea. A bit more digging is clearly in order, and once we start digging we are sure there will be much, much more to follow.

RBK&C dirt ahoy!

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Newsletter #1

A "newsletter" has been delivered across the Cremorne Estate in the last couple of days.

A newsletter from the Residents Association. Possibly.

The newsletter appears to be from the Residents Association. It doesn't actually say it is so we're guessing. But having spoken to several Committee members it appears that none of them were aware that it was even being produced. Everything ship shape there then!

The contents of the newsletter make interesting reading, revealing much about the interests and concerns of those who wrote it. More on that at a later date.

One very short article in the newsletter makes interesting reading.

Under the heading "Resident Safety" the newsletter states:

"Concerns have been raised by some residents about vehicles being parked near gas pipes. Council officers have investigated and found there is no cause for concern." 

What's wrong with this you ask? Well, aside from the fact that no "Council officers" are named, the problem is that the "vehicle" often parked near a gas pipe, and likely to be the subject of these concerns, is a motorbike belonging to none other than the newly anointed Chairman of the Residents Association whose face happens to be plastered all over the newsletter.

The Chairman (photo taken in the Council's offices)

That's right, the owner of the offending "vehicle" is writing to let us know that it's perfectly safe for him to continue to park his motorbike on the pavement next to the gas pipe outside Riley House.

The Chairman's motorbike parked next to the gas pipe outside Riley House. As usual.

We have nothing to worry about.

Because "Council officers" said so.

Is this appropriate? We think not.

Have "Council officers" really investigated and determined that it's perfectly okay to park a motorbike next to a gas pipe?

Who are these "Council officers"? Why aren't they named? Why aren't any contact details provided?

If anyone should be writing to the residents about this it should be Council. Not the owner of the offending motorbike.

There's more than a small conflict of interest here. That no one at the Council appears to have spotted it is worrying. That it did not occur to any of them that this might not be a good idea really does call their judgement into question.

Hint: this is not a good idea. 

The motivation of the Chairman (motorbike owner) is clear for all to see. He wants to carry on parking where he does. The Council's is a bit of a mystery.

But given that it does appear that the Council did have a role in the creation and distribution of this "newsletter" the words "clueless" and "learnt nothing from Grenfell" do come to mind.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

We're back!

We're back because it looks like the Council have plans for us again.

Back in 2014 the Council suggested to TfL that they build a Crossrail 2 station on the site of the Cremorne Estate rather than near Chelsea Fire Station, which had been the proposed site of a station for decades. To hide the truth from us they labelled it "West Chelsea" not "Cremorne Estate".

Why did they do this? We still don't know. We suspect money had more than a little to do with it.

We fought back. The estate fought back. Our neighbours fought with us.

Thankfully that proposal appears to have been shelved. TfL no longer mention "West Chelsea" when talking about Crossrail 2. They're now suggesting there won't be a station in Chelsea at all. Which suits us fine.

Seventy two of our fellow residents died in a terrible fire on the Lancaster West Estate on the 14th of June 2017. The Council now claim they don't have plans to regenerate any estate. We were glad to hear it when they said it but we suspect their new found generosity won't last long. They will once again hear the siren call of regeneration, and the money that comes with it, soon enough.

Which is why recent events are a cause for concern.

A letter has gone out announcing the Resident Association's Annual General Meeting. The letter is written by the Council. From speaking to our neighbours it seems the letter was sent out without the knowledge or consent of the Residents Association.

The Council appear to have taken over the Residents Association.

Now why do you think they would do that?

The Council have plans for us again. We don't know what and we don't know how, but they're back to their old tricks and we're not going to take it lying down.

SAVE THE CREMORNE!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Mayor's London Plan

The Mayor of London and the GLA are currently consulting on the Mayor's new Plan for London.

You can view and comment on the Plan here:
https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan

The deadline for the consultation is the 2nd March 2018. 

Having examined the plan some of the maps in Annex One are causing concern.

In particular the map shown below identifies a large number of areas within Kensington and Chelsea, including what appears to be a large area in or around the Cremorne Estate, as a "strategic site for regeneration".

It is unclear how these areas/sites have been identified.

We must assume that the Council must have pointed them out to the GLA.

The GLA's map of "strategic sites for regeneration":


Another map identifies large portions of Chelsea as suitable for residential development, as shown below.

The GLA's map of sites suitable for residential development:


The Council must identify the locations and boundaries of these areas. 

We encourage everyone to respond to the consultation. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

New Crossrail 2 Consultation

Transport for London are conducting another consultation on Crossrail 2.

The question relevant to Kings Road / Chelsea is question 20.

The consultation is available online here:

https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/crossrail2/october2015/consultation

The consultation closes on the 8th of January 2016.

There is still no indication as to precisely where on the Kings Road the station would be located.

TfL Feasibility Study

Transport for London carried out and published a feasibility study in October.

The results of the feasibility study are summarised in the table below:

Table 1a (click to zoom in) 

Table 1b (click to zoom in)

It is clear that the final site of the proposed station has yet to be determined.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Comments in the Press

There are concerns with regard to the recent comments made in the press by those campaigning against the construction of a Crossrail 2 station on the site of Chelsea Fire Station.

From the London Weekly News:

"… residents spearheading the grassroots campaign accused the council of performing a “complete volte face” on previously-agreed plans for a site in West Chelsea near the Cremorne Estate and misleading residents for the sake of an “extravagant and wasteful scheme”."


Regret is being expressed that a station has not been built in West Chelsea near the Cremorne Estate.


Claims have also been made with regard to the Council's own consultation which are misleading:


"It was revealed that “only 32 per cent” of residents had backed the proposals for a station on the fire station site when consulted by the council, with the rest calling for no station at all or one in the west."


But our own analysis of the data collected by the Council during its own consultation exercise into Crossrail 2 carried out between May and August 2013 suggests that 59%, not 32%, supported the proposal to locate the station on the site of the Chelsea Fire Station.


The article from the London Weekly News can be downloaded here.


The article from Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Today can be downloaded here.

New Plan for Crossrail brings back the Dame's Wartime Memories

An article recently appeared on the Hornet in relation to a new potential site for the Crossrail 2 station in Chelsea:

Following on from last week's rather interesting meeting of the "No Crossrail in Chelsea" campaign at Chelsea Old Town Hall the Dame's spies tell her that nefarious activity is once again afoot.

Word has reached the Dame that some of those opposing the station are no longer suggesting that Chelsea doesn't need a station, merely that it should go elsewhere. Not in their back yard, someone else's. We have been here before.

They are telling anyone who'll listen that the station should be relocated to the site of the old Chelsea and Fulham railway station, between the Kings Road and Fulham Road, just south of Stamford Bridge.

Being a bit of an old wartime bird the Dame does recall the old Chelsea and Fulham railway station. Nice as it was it was closed after being bombed in the war and never reopened.

Now the Dame doesn't know much about trains but those who do don't seem to think that this a particularly good idea.

The site is apparently too far to the west. TfL has previously rejected suggestions to locate the Crossrail 2 station near Imperial Wharf, claiming the route from Clapham to Victoria would then be too long and the curve of the line too great. A proposal where the line would end up even longer and the curve even greater would appear to have no legs.

And the old Chelsea and Fulham station was built upon long ago. 




There is Council housing to the west of the railway line, the Wandon Estate in Wandon Road, and a private development to the east, the Kings development at 552 Kings Road.

Given last summer's events any proposal that results in the loss of homes is risky at best, foolish at worst. It is only a matter of time before accusations of social cleansing and shipping people to Dagenham start to fly.

The Dame's spies are baffled as to why those who oppose the station don't stick to opposing the station, exactly as they had proposed at their meeting. That, at least, is a plan that all of Chelsea's residents might be convinced to support. Sneakily trying to stick it in someone else's back yard (again) isn't. 


The original story is at: http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/new-plan-for-crossrail-brings-back.html

The story had attracted over 140 comments at the time of writing. 

A second story has since appeared on the Hornet: "Crossrail 2 ... the last word".

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Our campaign

We attended the meeting on Tuesday evening at Chelsea Old Town Hall organised by those objecting to the proposed construction of the station on the site of Chelsea Fire Station.

We listened to what the panel said. We were concerned by the opening comments made by some members of the panel. We believe some of the statements made were misleading and erroneous.

It was claimed that people on the Cremorne Estate voted tactically to locate the station at the Fire Station.

We did not vote tactically. We did not instruct anyone to vote to locate the station at the site of the Fire Station.

We do not wish to be misrepresented.

Our only objective was to save our homes and local community.

We came together from all political persuasions and social backgrounds. Most of us were born in Chelsea, and are from Lots Road, Ten Acres, World's End, Cheyne Walk, the Cremorne Estate, the King's Road and elsewhere.

All residents have a legitimate right to express their concerns with regards to any development that affects their local area, including the proposals for the Fire Station.

It is not acceptable to suggest that the proposed station be moved back to "Chelsea West", thereby destroying hundreds of homes, dozens of businesses and displacing thousands of residents, many of whom were born in Chelsea and have lived here all their lives.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Alarm at comments by Chelsea Fire Station protestors

It has come to our attention that a group has been formed to protest against TfL's current proposals to locate the station on the King's Road on the site of Chelsea Fire Station.

They have organised a public meeting and have spoken to the local paper. A story recently appeared on the front page of "Kensington and Chelsea News" on the 28th of May.

We are alarmed at the suggestion that the Crossrail 2 station should be located in West Chelsea. The TfL consultation correctly concluded that it was the most disruptive option and least supported by local residents.

Cllr. Tim Coleridge, Cabinet Member for Planning, quite rightly states that 500 homes would be demolished and that this was deemed unacceptable.

We were assured by our MP Greg Hands on the 8th December 2014 that: "the option for a station at "Chelsea West" has been definitively ruled out by both Kensington and Chelsea and Council and by Crossrail."

Monday, 22 December 2014

Confirmation from our MP


We are extremely grateful to our MP Mr. Greg Hands for his assistance in this matter.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Crossrail 2 consultation - the next stage

Transport for London (TfL) have just begun the next stage of consultation on its proposed Crossrail 2 service. 

The amended proposals no longer contain any mention of a Crossrail 2 station at "Chelsea West" but do contain a station on the Kings Road.

Full details of the amended proposals are available from the Crossrail 2 website:

http://crossrail2.co.uk/

The proposals have moved on to the stage where decisions are being made about the precise route and the location of stations. 

The Department for Transport (Dft) is consulting on the amended safeguarding proposals. The consultation page is available from:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/crossrail-2-safeguarding-directions 

The scheme's safeguarding proposals, indicating the route that the underground tunnels will take and the land required to enable the construction of the stations, have been updated and are available from the DfT website. 

The Council have issued a press release with regards to the above. It is available here:

http://rbkc.gov.uk/parkingtransportandstreets/managingtraffic/consultations/crossrail2.aspx

Monday, 10 November 2014

The latest news from Greg Hands MP

Greg Hands MP's latest newsletter contains the following snippet of what appears to be very good news:

"Was briefed by senior officials at Transport for London on the next moves on Crossrail 2, and the future of a station in Chelsea. TfL confirmed that the “Chelsea West” option for the station is now excluded, and the station will come to Dovehouse Green on King’s Road, Chelsea, subject to further consultation."

It would appear that the Cremorne Estate ("Chelsea West") is no longer being considered as a potential site for a Crossrail 2 station. 

Greg Hands MP has been extremely helpful throughout. However we are awaiting final and definitive confirmation from Transport for London (TfL) due later this year.

BBC: London Crossrail 2 'preferred route' outlined by mayor

An article recently appeared on the BBC website describing the situation post-consultation. 

We're hopeful that this confirms that the Cremorne Estate is no longer being considered as a potential site for a Crossrail 2 station. Unfortunately we can't be 100% certain until Transport for London (TfL) publish full details of their preferred route later this year.

London Crossrail 2 'preferred route' outlined by mayor

A preferred route for a proposed £20bn Crossrail 2 scheme, running north-south through London, has been identified by mayor Boris Johnson.


The new "preferred route" for Crossrail 2

A second Crossrail scheme is vital to support the capital's growth, the mayor claimed.

If approved by the government, the line could be transporting up to 90,000 people into central London in the morning peak by 2030.

Crossrail 2 would run from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire to Epsom in Surrey.

It would pass through central London via places including Tottenham Court Road, Victoria, Chelsea and Clapham Junction.

If proposals are approved, construction could begin in 2017.

'Globally competitive'

Setting out the case for the line in a speech at the City Age conference, the mayor said: "With London's population soon to surpass its previous 1939 peak of 8.6 million and with more people travelling by Tube and rail than ever before, we need additional rail capacity to support future growth.

"For the capital to remain globally competitive, there needs to be continued investment in our transport network and that's why we have to get cracking on planning for Crossrail 2."

The scheme would complement the £14.8bn east-west Crossrail scheme, currently being built and scheduled to be operational by 2018.

Supporters say it will slash journey times across London, with a journey from Kingston, in south-west London, to Tottenham Court Road being completed in 29 minutes - 17 minutes faster than today.

Those travelling between Dalston, in north-east London and Tottenham Court Road would have an eight-minute journey - 19 minutes faster than today.

Mr Johnson said he was confident the private sector could, in the right circumstances, contribute to well over half the cost of Crossrail 2.

Opportunities for consultation

Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross said the announcement of a preferred route was "a big step forward" but added: "What we need to see now is the fully worked-up funding package which will make this project a reality."

Despite broad support for a new rail link in Chelsea, it is one area where there is concern over the positioning of a new station.

Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, Greg Hands, has said there was "a great deal of concern" from residents on Cremorne Estate, on the King's Road, that demolition of housing may be required if it is chosen for the location of the Chelsea West station.

The current proposed location for the station would be further east near the fire station on the King's Road and received the majority of support in this summer's consultation.

The consultation document says, over the course of 2015, there will be further work on the consideration and assessment of options and a number of opportunities for more detailed consultation.

The original article is here: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-29804467