Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lewisham Homes "Rubbish Removal" fuck up

Most tenants and residents got a letter through their door dated 15-04-2011. I've got one, but I can't honestly say that's when I got it. Anyway, it was about "Items left being stored on the communal walkway and landings and disposal of rubbish".

It was a rubbish letter about rubbish. It wasn't bullet-pointed so even half-educated folk like me couldn't read it properly. On further analysis the first two paragraphs are about not leaving 'washing machines, chest of draws bikes etc' on the balcony (fire risk) and paragraphs 3-5 are all about putting your rubbish in the chutes or bin chamber and not leaving it outside your door or in communal areas. All good reminders to some mindless folk, but who the hell's gonna read this?

The letter then quoted the rules n' regulations of our Tenancy Agreement, a note about not smoking in communal areas, and a number to call to dispose of 'washing machines ovens and fridges' (Environcall on 020 314 7171). Those seven paragraphs could've gone at the end after the sign off as Extra Important Info...

And then there was the threat:  "If residents do not remove the items stored in the communal areas in 14 days (underlined in bold) from the date of this letter or continue to dispose of their rubbish in the correct manner Tenancy Enforcement action may be taking [sic] against you" Yours sincerely Caretaking Services.

Well two weeks passed a week ago. Did they mean '14 working days excluding bank holidays'?...

We got news earlier that Frankham House were "Gestapoed" yesterday. We await a full report, but we heard Frankham residents had their balconies completely cleared, including plants and beloved items that the postman usually navigates successfully...

The last so called "Agent Orange clearance"  was a polite affair and stuff wasn't removed without resident's approval. They did it over three pre-announced lunch periods over three days, eg, Finch/Congers/Frankham may be next, possibly Monday, and Holden/Wilshaw/Browne/Castell/Cremer the next day. The notable thing about their last 'sweep' was that they had no idea how many flats were included in their last 'block' and didn't get round to half of them. Mainly they did it when people were out so approval was unavailable. There seems to be an assumption that council house residents are in all day.

However, this is 'Caretaking Services' so expect some inconsistencies and historically, you can expect complete ineptitude (no reflection on the shop floor). The letter had no signature, no contact name and no reference number. 

Let us know if you didn't get the letter of 15th April 2011. And meanwhile do a spring clean of your balcony, but don't get rid of stuff you want there like plants or a bike you have to store (where else are you going to put it?). If the postman can reach your neighbour without tripping up, how can it be a health and safety hazard? If you're creating an eyesore for your neighbours though, clear it up, for Pete's sake.


We've heard that a few people didn't receive the letter referred to above. But Leaseholders should've received a letter "Re: Fire Safety" in April that came with Home magazine and posted directly to their address. The letter was signed by the Head of Leasehold Services. Among other things the letter states:

To minimise fire risk in your property please ensure that you:

Do not store anything on balconies that could easily catch fire
Do not overload electrical sockets
Install smoke detectors and test them regularly

To minimise fire risk in the communal areas of the building please ensure that you:

Keep communal areas clear
Do not wedge open fire doors in corridors
Never leave refuse sacks, bicycles, children's buggies, plant pots, washing or other obstructions in communal corridors or walkways
Keep all exits from your home clear so people can get out easily if there is a fire.

However, these rules appear to be directed towards blocks where communal corridors and walkways are internal. Ours are not.


  1. I refer you to one of the many bits of bumf that the council hit us with this week i.e.Home Fire Safety Guide.  On the back, first column, penultimate paragraph, it basically says that in the case of fire in a neighbouring flat you should stay indoors. I might add that a local firefighter (guess who ?) has agreed with this and furthermore adds that these pre-war blocks are far more fire resistant that any modern flats. So why all this crap about removing flower pots etc.?
    Do these cloth headed petty jobsworths at the council consider such things ?

  2. Has anyone been able to confirm or deny the news regarding the 'rubbish' removal in Frankham house yet? I didn't receive the first letter you refer to but did get the second one (inside a copy of Home magazine). I noted the details at the time but thought it more pertinent to blocks of flats with communal fire doors and corridors/walkways - where the enclosed nature of the communal areas filled with peoples 'stuff' could potentially cause a fire/smoke hazard. But following the above report of the Frankham clearance I leave my flat every day filled with anxiety that upon my return I will find all my pots and plants, my strawberries and my potatoes (trying container growing for the first time!) will be gone. I was in touch with Lewisham Homes last year regarding this very same matter after their first knee jerk reaction to the fire in a block of (1960's - let it be noted) flats with enclosed communal areas. I also took a morning off work to join one of the regular 'Estate Inspections' - taking time to point out that my balcony was not full of rubbish, old fridges nor old washing machines - but filled with a lovingly grown and tended balcony garden. The inspector told me at the time that he thought there would not be a problem with it - but that if there was I would no doubt be contacted by the council. Since then I've heard not a peep. Until this blog.....

  3. Guru Red,
    I'm afraid I'm getting mixed messages. The Frankham resident who told me about the Gestapo seems to have gone away, but it looks to me like most people's plants and stuff are still in tact. The caretaker thought it might have only been one person who was targeted. He also thought that the fire brigade had been called to verify whether whatever was on the balcony could be deemed an obstruction, and they had confirmed it was. He also had no idea when and if any clearance would take place on the rest of the estate and knew nothing about any letters going out.

    I called 'Caretaking Services' and spoke to Michele. She didn't know anything about the letter and said she couldn't find out who'd sent it if it wasn't signed and had no reference number. She consulted with her colleagues and then said that Frankham had been sent a letter and had been cleared last week.

    I said residents were worried that their plant pots were going to be removed while they were out at work and she assured me that plant pots would not be taken.

    I had to end the call due to a visitor arriving so I didn't get to ask about bikes and whether other blocks got a letter or were scheduled to be cleared. She said she would call back if she found out who had sent the letter to my block, but she hasn't yet.

  4. JP, perhaps it might be because the fire was in your own house? You wouldn't want to stay in the flat then and you might curse your neighbour if it's difficult to get past...? Still, I agree plant pots are much of an obstruction, and the place would look truly depressing without them.

  5. Sorry I meant 'aren't' much of an obstruction!