My fact-finding mission into Braithwaite House development
26 April, 2019
• LAST week a letter was circulated to all residents of Braithwaite House regarding plans for development of our estate. There were many claims made in it that were worrying so I decided to spend Thursday finding out the facts.
As the letter was unsigned I cannot reply to the person or persons who wrote it so I decided to attend the tenant management organisation (TMO) meeting last Thursday to try to clarify the situation. This is what I discovered.
• Fire safety. This issue is ongoing and involves Property Services. Since Grenfell there have been meetings with residents and remedial fire safety work has been carried out to mitigate the risk of fire. This has involved the removal of external cladding, which was commenced immediately following the tragedy, replacement of fire doors to the roof and works to risers and treads.
The works were signed off in October 2018 by the Fire Brigade and Health and Safety. It is my understanding that we cannot make further improvements until the outcome of the Grenfell inquiry and the recommendations which come from that.
Property Services are best placed to respond to issues relating to a new stairwell, sprinkler system, central alarm system, fire safety works and a fire drill. All issues regarding intercoms, water tanks and windows are also with the Property Services division.
I am sure the TMO either has this information or can make its own representation. All these are dealt with from a completely different budget to the budget dealing with the new build.
• Loss of parking, storage, cycle store and podium. The new-build proposal has now been publicised at several resident consultation events. In relation to parking we will lose garages and some parking space but provision has been arranged for residents with current parking need at neighbouring St Luke’s estate.
The loss of storage will be re-provided at the base of Quaker Court, providing an improved area for storage. In line with Islington’s planning policy we will provide significantly more cycle storage than is currently provided.
The podium will need to be demolished. The structural condition is poor and will require funding in future years to repair following water penetration and spalling concrete.
The removal of the podium is also required to provide additional homes. The outside space will be improved significantly to replace very poor quality amenity space on the existing podium.
As a result of the changes it has been calculated that around eight per cent of total outside space will be lost, but what is planned will, in my opinion, be a vast improvement on what we have currently (although I do realise this is subjective).
Structural engineers have surveyed and tested the area and I’ve been informed that removal of the podium will have no effect on the integrity of the main block as it is not part of the main building.
• Allocation of new homes and new tenancies. Any resident rehoused in one of the new homes will remain a secure tenant. Islington only operates introductory tenants for those who have never held a tenancy before and this is a six-month probationary tenancy converted to a secure tenancy at the end of the probation period. This is the same situation for anyone getting a council tenancy for the first time.
• Overdevelopment. The council’s target for new social rent housing is 550 by 2022. On all our schemes we try to maximise the number of new homes, but this is checked for compliance by the planning department. This is no different to any other developer. There are strict rules in place to prevent overdevelopment.
It should also be noted that the number of new homes – 40 – stated in the letters is for the entirety of the Braithwaite and Quaker Court development, not just the podium area. And no home has been yet allocated. The council cannot allocate homes that are not yet built.
I hope this clarifies the situation and puts some worries to bed. I realise any development can be a worrying and distressing time for residents but let’s start discussions from the facts as opposed to misunderstanding.
CLLR PHIL GRAHAM