Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The collapsing ceilings saga continues...

Continuing the story of total ineptitude at Farrer House that we reported in late October, when roof repairs by MITIE were left exposed and rain flooded into the flats below...
We're not sure what's happened with Vincent and his family after MITIE's gaff on the roof of Farrer that caused one of his ceilings to collapse onto his young daughter while she slept in her bed. But their flat was not the only one affected. Yesterday, one of his neighbours at the other end of the block was hit on the head by a piece of falling plaster from the ceiling in her toilet. The whole of the ceiling and wooden supports are rotten and AJ can see the loft insulation through the hole. Apparently, the flat next door is in an even worse state.

The fire officers attending the roof flood at Farrer House in the early hours of 27th October stated that all the fibreglass insulation in the exposed roof area was soaked, was unlikely to dry out properly and would probably need replacing. What has happened since?

On 3rd November, the access door to the loft was open and a worker was overheard chatting in a foreign language on his phone in the pitched roof area...was he fixing things?

The new balcony walkway surfaces were still covered in flood debris outside Vincent's place and up the other end of the walkway...

The walkway ceilings were still bulging...

And, though nothing to do with the roof, a pipe was leaking and soaking a wall...just one of the many examples of MITIE's shoddy work and Lewisham Homes' poor management.

AJ already had a hole in her kitchen ceiling from roof work that took place prior to the flood. MITIE had made an appointment to visit her flat about that damage but hadn't kept it. By 12th November, AJ's toilet ceiling was beginning to grow mould. But all that had happened after the flood was a brief visit from the MITIE site supervisor the following morning. And a letter went out to Farrer residents from MITIE, apologising for the roof leak.

By 18th November, no one from Lewisham Homes had made contact and no interior repairs had taken place.

Yet astonishingly, on 2nd December, AJ was invited (as the 'block representative') by the Lewisham Homes Major Works Project Manager to attend a walkabout on 16th December (with Lewisham Homes surveyors Baily Garner) to "sign off" – or "handover" – all of MITIE's 'completed work' on Farrer House.

How can work be signed off when ceilings are rotting?

On 7th December, when a gentle tap with a broom handle indicated her toilet ceiling was liable to collapse at any time, AJ chased the Project Manager yet again and questioned whether a "handover" was really appropriate. If anyone was going to be working up there, a misplaced foot would bring the whole lot down, she warned. She emailed again when it started falling in on her head the next day. The reply she got was even more incredible.

The Major Works Project Manager replied that MITIE had been asked to provide the reports of their "pre-condition inspections" carried out before work began, and that "it was evident from MITIE's photos that the ceilings were already in a poor state of repair". In other words, MITIE was claiming that the damage had not been caused by their failing to protect the roof repairs, and Lewisham Homes appeared to be agreeing with them. 

AJ was astonished, as her ceiling had been more or less fine before the flooding. The Project Manager continued, "Following the roof leak, MITIE submitted a report of the damage, having visited the properties in question last week". But they had made no such visit to AJ.

Not in any particular hurry, the Project Manager said she would have a look for herself when she and Baily Garner came to do the "handover" next week. She added that "Leaseholders are insured by their building insurance".

So, it was not MITIE's fault, making interior repairs was not Lewisham Homes' responsibility, and AJ would have to claim on her own insurance. The Project Manager had, as usual, preferred to believe MITIE over evidence presented by the resident – and was also entirely wrong about the insurance situation...


Over many years, AJ had made several claims on her own insurance for damage to walls and ceilings caused by water penetration. Damp was being caused by the leaking flat roof and the canopy that covers the top floor walkways which leaked where it met the walls of the flats. Only Farrer's roof is designed like this, being the last building to be constructed on Crossfields in 1949 – other top floor walkways are covered by pitched roofs. During this time, the freeholder, Lewisham Council, has only ever made temporary repairs by patching or by clearing the flat roof's drainage gullies of leaves.

Leaseholders pay a contribution in their annual service charges to a buildings insurance policy taken out by Lewisham Homes which covers damage to the overall building and its communal parts. Leaseholders must also get their own building insurance to cover any damage they might be responsible for to the flats below or above them.

But in AJ's case, the interior damage was directly attributable to the lack of maintenance of the building's common parts (ie, the flat roof and the top floor walkway canopy) and should have been covered by the freeholder's own building insurance. When AJ first realised this, Lewisham Homes had not been invented and the estate was administered by the Housing team at the Council. AJ began referring the problem to Lewisham Council's insurance team. In 2001 their broker refused to pay out and wrote to the Housing department to tell them why. Although she was not supposed to see it, AJ managed to get a copy of this internal document, which said:

"the cause of the problem – the worn out flat roof – does not seem to have been addressed.  The insurers would now regard any further damage to Ms (AJ)'s property as being inevitable due to lack of repair. Patch repairs would appear to be ineffective and a new roof is required.

"Ms (AJ) is a leaseholder and under the terms of her lease the Council is responsible for maintaining the 'reserved' premises.  By not replacing her roof you are in breach of the lease. Again insurance cannot be used to compensate for breaches of contract.''

Lots of paperwork seems to have disappeared during the Council's handover to Lewisham Homes in 2007, including repair records and details of previous Major Works to Crossfields in 1997. Nevertheless, Lewisham Homes recruited many of its staff from previous Council departments, and the Housing staff should have known the position on insurance.


The walkway side of Farrer House
A side view from Creekside shows the extent of the flat roof and tiled pitched roof
The top floor's walkway canopy
When Major Works began on Farrer last year and the roof was surveyed, AJ pointed out the problem with the walkway canopy which was sagging even then. Within days of commencing work at Farrer, MITIE painted the walkway canopy's ceiling. Water stains appeared soon after. On other blocks, the walkway ceilings were painted after "concrete repair" work had taken place – cracks were dug out around metal joists, the joists painted with anti-rust, the lot filled in and painted over. These concrete repairs were done to avoid all possibility of balcony walkways ever collapsing on people's heads.

Later on, when the subcontractor arrived on site to resurface everyone's balcony walkways, the flat part of the roof at Farrer was given a coating of the same waterproofing product.

Eventually, with all work supposedly completed, the scaffolding on the entire block was taken down. Then almost immediately and at enormous cost, scaffolding was re-erected to address the walkway canopy problem, which the surveyors Baily Garner had finally decided had to be completely demolished and rebuilt.

This work should have been anticipated at the beginning, during the surveys, or before estimates were even issued to leaseholders months earlier in May 2014. The requirement for such extensive structural repairs might have been picked up if anyone had ever actually bothered to look at the repair logs for the 8 year period since Lewisham Homes had been in charge.


So the omnishambles that is Lewisham Homes Major Works continues, despite MITIE having been given the push. 

MITIE are effectively saying most of the damage was already caused by Lewisham Homes' failure to repair, whilst seemingly failing to acknowledge it has been made significantly worse by their own neglect. Meanwhile Lewisham Homes were happy to pass to the leaseholder the responsibility for interior repairs necessitated by their own neglect to properly repair the structural fabric of the building.

When AJ mentioned legal proceedings, the Project Manager revised Lewisham Homes' position, declaring that they were responsible for repairing the roof and that they would "make an informed decision on how damage to individual property can be remedied".

No urgency, no mention of when. No word about renewing the loft insulation. In the meantime, some of the rooms in the top floor flats are almost uninhabitable. But that's OK. If someone is hurt, Lewisham Homes is liable.

Today, the second lot of scaffolding (which was erected for rebuilding the previously undiagnosed walkway canopy as well as tile repairs to the pitched roof) was being taken down.

With access to the roof now removed, it will be impossible to examine those roof repairs at the "handover" next week. It is likely that Baily Garner have already been up to have a look and signed it off anyway and the walkabout next week is just a formality, or even, as with other handovers, a bit of a sham. For AJ, there will be no reassurance that the problems have been solved.

That's why she nipped up there yesterday to have a quick look for herself before the scaffold was struck. She was worried by what she saw in a relatively small area and short space of time – blocked gullies, large poolings of water on unevenly laid waterproofed surfaces, big gaps between the pitched roof tiling and brickwork...and had the walkway canopy actually been rebuilt?

Still, when it all fails the next time, at least Lewisham Homes will not be asking her to claim on her own insurance to pay for the repairs. It only took 20 years to get that far.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Fairs this weekend...and next...

Sat 5th Dec 10.30am–4pm
Free entry
Unique handcrafted presents including ceramics, vintage clothes, classy items, jewellery, decorations, art keepsakes, Deptford 'Sunshine State' t-shirts, Deptford Is Forever anchor shirts & bags, The Lenox Project and Deptford X merchandise.
Albany Theatre, Douglas Way
SE8 4AG (Disabled access)

Thurs 3rd Dec 6-9pm
Fri–Sun 4th–6th Dec 11am-6pm 
£3 entry, FREE to Lewisham residents on Friday 4 Dec
Meet makers and buy direct from designers in their studios. Quality textiles, homewares, jewellery, chocolates, Prize Draw for handmade Xmas decorations, Hand Made Food Café.
Cockpit Arts, 18-22 Creekside 
SE8 3DZ (Disabled access)
Fri 4th Dec 6-9pm
Sat & Sun 5th & 6th Dec 1-5pm
Free entry
Original hand-made gifts: prints, ceramics, glassware, sculpture, homeware, jewellery, paintings, silk screened cards from Arthub's studio artists. Vinyl DJing, Brockley Brewery and The Cocktail Gardener on the opening night...
5-9 Creekside SE8 4SA

Fri 4th Dec 5-8pm
Sat & Sun 5 & 6th Dec 1-5pm
Free entry
Large selection of drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics and sculpture by APT members and guests. Refreshments served!
6 Creekside SE8 4SA (Disabled access)
Sat 5th Dec 3-6pm 
Free entry
Shop for hand-made Xmas presents in the comfort of your local pub...
Birds Nest Pub, 
32 Deptford Church St SE8 4RZ
(Disabled access)

Next week...

Sat 12th Dec 11am–6pm
Free entry
Original artworks, hand-made crafts and seasonal gifts by studio artists plus flowers, resident DJ, mulled wine, soup, cakes and mince pies...
140 Lewisham Way SE14 6PD
(Disabled access)

Apologies to any other Deptford fairs we've missed out!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Private Eye prints our MITIE story...

It's hard to get a story into Private Eye's 'Rotten Boroughs', so well done the resident who got them to publish a story about MITIE's shoddy work for Lewisham Homes in the latest issue. Click below to enlarge and read...

Friday, November 27, 2015

"And so to Greenwich..." : 'Pepyshow' at National Maritime Museum

Pepyshow was the name of a community drama group in the 80s who put lots of shows on at The Albany. They were based at Pepys Estate. The clue is in the name. Samuel Pepys was Secretary to the Admiralty and used to spend a lot of time in Deptford, keeping an eye on the navy's operations at Deptford's Royal Dockyard (now Convoys Wharf), visiting his friend John Evelyn and cavorting with Mrs Bagnell, the wife of a shipwright. Hence the streets and tower blocks near the river in Deptford are named after all the prominent people of that time – including ships captains and slave traders such as Hawkins and Drake.

Under Pepys' stewardship, an ambitious new shipbuilding programme was initiated on the orders of Charles II, its purpose to counter the threat of the Dutch navy and a rapidly expanding French fleet. The construction of the 'thirty ship' programme represented the pinnacle of English shipbuilding practice. The famous diarist's adminstration helped carry the Royal Navy to a position of global maritime supremacy, and he regarded this work as his greatest lifetime achievement.

Pepys was also President of the Royal Society during a time of hugely significant scientific exploration (including the work of John Evelyn), and he was Master of Trinity House, founded at Deptford Strand. So you'd expect to see a mention of Deptford in this new exhibition about Pepys at the Maritime Museum, wouldn't you?

But no, true to form (like most of the other general exhibits in the museum), there is hardly a SINGLE mention of Deptford in Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution.

Considering this is a maritime museum which bills itself as the "gateway to intrepid exploration and endeavour at sea", the section entitled 'Control of the Seas' which covers Pepys' role in the navy and the consequent "development of Britain's place as a maritime, economic and political force on the world stage" is surprisingly small. The sections on plague and fire are similarly small and underwhelming, despite the exhibition's title.

There is a mention of his good friend Evelyn, also a famous diarist, in the penultimate section 'Science and Society' where an original copy of Evelyn's great work 'Sylva' is displayed. But no mention of Evelyn's home and experimental gardens at Sayes Court in Deptford, next door to the Royal Dockyard – and just a stone's throw from Greenwich.

An interactive map of important London places is on display in almost every room, but does not extend beyond London Bridge. Our search for any reference to Deptford exposed a map of Harwich in the navy section which bore the microscopic legend "presented to Pepys as Secretary of the Admiralty, President of the Royal Society, and Master of Trinity House of Deptford Strand".

And if you pay the extra £2.50 for an audio guide on top of the advertised £12.50 ticket price, you'll hear an actor reading exceedingly short excerpts from the famous diary. Next to the copy of Sylva, the talking guide begins "And so to Deptford by water..." as Pepys heads down to see Evelyn. That's it for Deptford.

There is much emphasis on Charles II's mistresses (while missing out a lot of them) but no evidence of Pepys' womanising with Mrs Bagwell. His love of theatre and music takes up a lot of space with a shadow theatre presentation of small segments of Macbeth and Dryden, but the main focus is on the 'repositioning' of the British monarchy after the English Civil war, aka the Restoration. Interesting as it is (unless you're particularly phobic about the monarchy), the information is still paltry and confusing.

They certainly make a big deal, as you enter the show, out of a grand painting of Charles I being be-headed, with special spotlighting on parts of the painting that tell the story and provide a context, all of which you could easily miss if you arrive before or after it's scheduled to be 'interactive'. We're not sure if we heard or saw the word 'Catholic' mentioned in the entire show, but see for yourselves.

The exhibition is designed around what artefacts were available. Pepys' actual diary is not one of those, unfortunately, as Pepys' will confined it to Magdalene College, Cambridge, never to be shown elsewhere. Extracts available either by audio or interactive screen are limited, yet the scope of the exhibition covers before and after Pepys kept his diary (which he stopped long before he died). Even so, the British Museum's 'A History of the World in 100 Objects' managed to say more about the whole world than this show does about the Restoration with 200.

If you really want to know what was going on, when, where and who, you'll have to buy the book, which is £25 (£30 hardback). According to the index, there are about four mentions of Deptford in it, which is a vast improvement on the exhibition itself. They're also selling a comprehensively illustrated tome called 'Pepys Navy' by naval historian David Davies which has countless references to Deptford, but it's displayed on an unreachable high shelf – as if they're unsure what a visitor to a maritime museum might actually be interested in.

Merchandise consists of expensive metal fire buckets painted grey (!), and tins of Twinings English Breakfast Tea. The important fact that tea was first introduced to the UK by Charles II's queen, the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, is one that you could easily miss in the exhibition unless you'd read the caption for the Chinese porcelain teapot lurking among the display of silver coffee pots.

As for the flavour of Pepys and the people he dealt with in his day to day dealings...well we still have the diaries. The value of this exhibition is its political overview, and what the diary did not cover when Pepys stopped writing about London. But generally you'd be at a loss to find any evidence of ordinary people in this entire show.


Greenwich would be nothing without Deptford, and it's about time the museum acknowledged that fact. Hopefully, Deptford's homegrown projects will redress the balance in the future, offering a better understanding of the past and the part that ordinary people played in it aside from the political machinations of the time (though these cannot be ignored, especially now). The Lenox Project not only wants to construct a replica of the first ship in Pepys' thirty ship programme, but also intends to build a Deptford Dockyard Museum.

Most of the artefacts would have to come from the National Maritime Museum which holds them in storage never to be displayed. Whilst its less prominent staff are enthusiastic about the project, the snobby upper echelons have so far refused to support it. Meanwhile, John Evelyn's legacy will be celebrated by a centre of excellence created by Sayes Court Garden CIC, who are currently working with Greenwich University.

Both projects are still waiting to get started after their ambitious plans were successfully made a condition of the planning permission given to the Convoys Wharf's Hong Kong based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa by the Mayor of London in March 2014 (after the decision was snatched by the GLA from the hands of Lewisham Council in 2013 because they were supposedly taking too long to decide)...

If you feel proud of Deptford's past achievements as an international powerhouse of scientific ingenuity and industrial prowess, and want to see it celebrated whilst the site gets buried under 48 and 38 storey 'luxury homes', these are the projects that need your support.

The Lenox Project CIC:
Sayes Court Garden CIC:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sign the petition to bring back the Deptford Anchor!

A campaign for the return of the 'Deptford Anchor' was launched on Saturday, and at the time of writing, has already garnered over 1500 signatures in just five days. Click here to sign.

Via 38 Degrees, the campaign is petitioning Lewisham's Mayor to re-instate the anchor to the south end of the high street where it had resided for 25 years until being removed during regeneration works two years ago, amidst much protest. It later became the focus of a local art project, who have now teamed up with the Deptford Society to launch the petition. They want the anchor returned without the plinth it once stood on.

Visualisation of the anchor without a plinth @Deptford Is Forever

Whilst the anchor served as a landmark for friends to meet up, its plinth had also become a seating area for street drinkers, so it seemed to many that the new high street paving had been an opportunity for the Council to remove the anchor and 'design out' anti-social behaviour.

©Ben Graville –

The drinkers soon found somewhere else to sit – on the benches in the newly paved Giffin Square, in front of the new Tidemill school and the library. We heard that parents of children at the school are now petitioning for the seating to be removed!

Meanwhile, utility companies have since dug up new paving stones and filled them with tarmac, and the new paving is already badly stained. The top of the high street still lacks the proud focal point it once enjoyed. Although the space is used by market traders on Saturdays, the rest of the week it remains empty – except when it is occupied by a Talk Talk or Sky sales team, who, with their habit of chasing shoppers down the street and hassling them to buy broadband phone deals, could be said to be more anti-social in their behaviour than the street drinkers ever were.

Talk Talk sales team hassling shoppers

The empty space is also sometimes used as quick and convenient parking for Asda shoppers. And to the distress of residents living above the shops, Asda itself has been loading and unloading here in the middle of the night.

Unmarked Asda truck parks up at 3am in the morning to noisily load and unload ©Ben Graville

Below is where the Deptford Anchor currently resides. It's being 'stored' in the Olympia warehouse building on Convoys Wharf 'for safe keeping'. Why is it still there, under the so-called 'protection' of a developer who gives not a jot for the maritime heritage of Deptford?

The anchor is stored in the Olympia building at Convoys Wharf @Deptford Is Forever

Convoys Wharf is owned by Asia's richest billionaire, Li Ka Shing, via Cheung Kong Property Holdings – one of his two recently reorganised and renamed Hong Kong-based global conglomerates (with limited liability in the Cayman Islands) – otherwise known to us as Hutchison Whampoa.

As the Deptford Dame noted in July, when travellers made it their home for awhile, the site was not even that safely secured. She also pointed out that in the (now) eight months since the Section 106 agreement with the GLA and Lewisham Council was signed and almost two years since HW received outline planning permission for the development from the Mayor of London (March 2014), not a single planning application (ie, worked up designs for the individual buildings and parcels of land) has been submitted to Lewisham's planning department.

So if the aim of both Lewisham Council and the developer was to re-situate the anchor within the development itself, it is likely to be at least another ten years before it is seen again. Time to bring it back! Sign the petition here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Flooding and gas leaks...a bad night for Lewisham Homes...

Farrer House ceiling. Already bad, just made worse.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, residents at Farrer House were woken by the fire brigade. Two fire engines and ten firefighters had responded to a call from a very worried resident on the top floor who was afraid a fire would break out because rain water was pouring through his ceilings and sparking the electrics.

The roof of the top floor balconies is being rebuilt by MITIE, the contractors working in partnership with Lewisham Homes to refurbish the estate buildings with Decent Homes public funding. The exposed roof work had been left uncovered, resulting in flooding in the flats below.

The fire brigade disconnected the electrics, but were astonished to find there were no signs on site giving the number of the contractor in case of emergencies. They tried to contact Lewisham Homes and Lewisham Council to no avail. When they finally got through to someone, the response was that they were not 'overly interested' and no one was available to come out to deal with the problem.

Perhaps they were too busy dealing with the gas leak occuring at the Tanner's Hill estate, where the residents of 60 flats had to spend Tuesday night on camp beds in the Deptford Lounge after an emergency evacuation. On Wednesday a crisis team and even the Red Cross were in attendance at the Lounge during the day, but we hear that SGNGas had sorted hotels, meals and transport for the residents' second night away from home. We hope they are now all home safe, and look forward to hearing more about what actually happened soon (possibly in the local papers!).

Crisis team meets Red Cross, Deptford Lounge. Everyone gone already?

Red Cross outside library

It would appear the trauma suffered by Tanner's Hill residents cannot be blamed (as yet) on any one body in particular. But at Crossfields – where the tenant who has been keeping a bucket in one of his rooms to collect dripping water for several months now and has still not been offered alternative hotel accommodation for him and his family as far as we know – the blame is easy to aportion.

Collecting water on the fourth floor

The Background

Crossfields residents have been complaining all year about the appalling sub-standard levels of work being done by the contractor – further compounded by their lack of supervision and monitoring of workers, and the absence of a Lewisham Homes Clerk of Works to check work in progress.

Worse still, the schedule of works drawn up by the surveyors Baily Garner (and approved by Lewisham Homes) seemed mostly cosmetic or the results of a prediction of what would be required to maintain the buildings some several years hence, as if no funding at all would be available in the next 5-20 years. There appeared very little relation to any problems that the buildings might actually have as experienced by those living here.

Lewisham Homes claimed consistently early on that the Repairs team were consulted on the schedules but have since admitted (behind closed doors) that the bids had had to be prepared very hurriedly to gain access to funding, and Repairs – who would have a record of persistent reported problems – were not consulted at all.
One such historic problem is damp, but tenants who complain about mould on their walls and ceilings are constantly told the problem is condensation – they must avoid drying washing indoors without ventilation, for instance. However, it is often caused by unrepaired guttering or leaking pipes close to walls. Problems usually occur on the ground floor, especially in corner flats with more than one outside wall, but can affect the first floor if the problem is a leaking gutter. Historically, these problems have been ignored by the Repairs Service.

The water penetration on the top floor at Farrer is caused by a leaky flat roofed canopy and has been going on for years. Residents affected by the damage caused have been made to claim on their own insurance on an annual basis to make their own decorative repairs since the problem with the roof has never been fixed properly by Lewisham Homes.

How long? So long...
Getting worse, the pink room...

Already bad, the blue room

Dry, Warm and Safe

Decent Homes funding is awarded to local authorities to bring homes up to standard – the aims are to make homes dry, warm and safe. The roof issue at Farrer was pointed out to both Lewisham Homes and the contractor at the beginning of the works last summer, but little attention seemed to be paid. Scaffolding went up and unnecessary cosmetic items like jet washing brickwork went ahead despite protests that creating a 'Wow factor' (to quote a Baily Garner employee) had nothing to do with making the flats 'dry, warm and safe'.

A proper survey was not carried out until after cracks in the canopy ceilings had been dug out and re-concreted and then re-painted – only to be ruined a few days later by water penetration. The flat roof was then treated with an application of 'polyurea' which was also used to seal the walkways. (Incidentally, water penetration into the seams where the walkways meet the walls of the flats has also been a cause of damp interior walls, but the main reason the walkways were treated was to stop water deteriorating the concrete supporting the balconies to avoid the rather paranoid Health & Safety issue of them collapsing. The gaps that cause interior damp have only recently been filled with mastic when the problem of water egress into the flats below was finally acknowledged.)

Work finished on Farrer House and to everyone's relief scaffolding came down before summer ended, but the roof problem and water penetration remained unresolved. The survey revealed structural damage that meant the entire balcony canopy would need to be rebuilt, something that must have been known about before scaffolding came down. The scaffolding went up again – and leaseholders were issued with a further notice to pay extra costs (a further £4-£5k each) that included a second round of very expensive scaffolding as well as the work itself.

A second round of scaffolding for Farrer House, plunging homes into darkness once more.

It is likely that MITIE, in their relentless pursuit of profit, are also now cutting corners with these new repairs...From their compound on Crossfields, they are not only sending out painters to splodge paint on the same pipes for the fourth time or supposedly qualified brickies to mortar 'refaced' bricks at the last minute before an official inspection, they are also working on cocking up other estates in the area.

Despite employing unskilled and unsupervised labour that has meant most jobs have had to be redone several times, MITIE will probably still be laughing all the way to the bank with public money. A painter was recently overheard complaining to his foreman that he was being made to paint some pipes for the fourth time – the reply was "Don't worry, the government is paying".

Meanwhile Lewisham Homes have obfuscated and failed to listen to their residents throughout – communications have been dreadful and their Complaints Procedure has proved not fit for purpose (see Residents Scrutiny Committee Review: Major Works Resident Liaison Review July 2015).

Residents Scrutiny Committee - Resident Liaison Review

Both tenants and leaseholders have been unhappy; tenants have not been kept informed as to why scaffolding was up for over six months and can't see any real improvements made to the outside of their homes (the exterior environment was not part of the works and is as shabby as ever), but leaseholders, who have to pay for the works, have been most vocal. The RSC noted that Lewisham is failing to monitor satisfaction with external works. Whilst they closely monitored tenants' satisfaction with internal works (tenants were given new kitchens, bathrooms, loos and front doors which they did not have to pay for) they paid more attention to the happy outcome and less to the trauma of the process (and here). Tenants were obviously happy with outcomes, but much less so about the process. With external works, no measuring has taken place at all except to register leaseholders' complaints, many of which remain unrecorded because they've fallen into a vacuum of incompetency.

The MITIE compound at Crossfields was established in April 2013 to cater to the tenants' internal works and takes up 16 parking spaces. The TRA was promised it would be gone by February 2014.

Official complaints lodged have been answered by the Project Manager from the Customer Relations (Complaints) email address, and email responses from the Director of Property Services were also written by her (sent from his email address). The RSC noted that "...(there is) an expectation that Lewisham Homes will closely (monitor) contractors to ensure quality and cost control...the perception is that this is not happening...the perception is that Lewisham Homes has become defensive and is 'terrified' of complaints" (p63). So they should be.

Problems were supposed to be referred to the Resident Liaison Officer, but he worked for MITIE, so that was the last person people wanted to go to with complaints about the contractor, especially as he often got things wrong – missing keys (by putting them through the wrong letterboxes), badly made and missed appointments (by putting notes through the wrong doors), numerous pandering promises that he couldn't keep, and an over-cocky attitude to residents who had been picked out by the cabal in the MITIE compound office as 'trouble'....

The vigour with which the freelance Lewisham Homes Project Manager (only appointed after complaints had reached unmanageable proportions) has defended the contractor's shoddy work has also disappointed those who thought she might have been employed to act on residents' behalf – as if Lewisham Homes were the employer and the contractor was not fulfilling its obligations. But the arrangement is not as straightforward as that: it's a 'partnership' with seemingly no one responsible while the work is going on...or indeed after. Don't worry, the government is paying.

Vincent's ceiling in the pink room the next day

Too little too late. Bye bye MITIE?...

The inclusion of a couple of Lewisham Homes 'accountants' on a recent walkabout to 'sign off' work (where Baily Garner have previously acted in this role, signing off their own work) gave the attending resident block rep the impression that more scrutiny is now being applied to achieve 'value for money'. It was even suggested that leaseholders' bills might be reduced from the original estimates. This might seem like a recognition of the poor work done by MITIE, but complaints about the original estimates so poorly drawn by Baily Garner (seemingly unchecked by Lewisham Homes) might have led LH to shift blame to their partner contractors. Such is the nature of partnerships. Don't worry, the government is paying.

MITIE have no particular expertise other than outsourcing cheap labour (mainly for prisons, security and cleaning) and already have a reputation for defrauding local authorities. They were not among the contractors mentioned the last time leaseholders were consulted about anything to do with major works three years ago, bringing into doubt the validity of the Section 20 notices served by Lewisham Homes last May.

Previous LH managerial responses to complaints (especially from the freelance Project Manager) have been that leaseholders must go through the costly and time consuming business of challenging everything via Leasehold Tribunal (ie "La,la,la, not listening, you can argue about that when the bills come in!"). Those are challenges that Lewisham Homes, backed by Council lawyers, historically win.

But while there may be optimistic standards to be met at 'handover', absence of task monitoring by both MITIE and LH throughout has caused work to go on long after it should have finished. The only monitoring has been as a result of leaseholder complaints. In fact, 15 months after MITIE began external works – and 18 months after leaseholders were ambushed by Lewisham Homes with the first news in three years that Major Works would take place and that they would each have to find sums of up to £13k to pay for them – only two blocks out of nine have been 'passed' as completed.

This means MITIE are likely to be with us well into the new year, patching up their mistakes and cocking up as yet unfinished work and working on other estates from their compound on our estate. They still have to finish what they started in the north area despite the good news that their partnering contract has not been renewed. Only two tiny references to this can be found in the July 2015 Lewisham Homes Board Minutes (only visible by visiting October's meeting papers).

p60, Lewisham Homes Board Minutes, July 2015 (October papers)

On p146 it is noted that "all outstanding and future internal Decent Homes works will be undertaken by the in-house Repairs Service...". Gawd 'elp us! Presumably Repairs will not be managing the millions that were put at MITIE's disposal via Decent Homes funding, and repair budgets will be as squeezed as they were before – which resulted in the running down of the Council's housing stock that required the injection of Decent Homes funding. The opportunities presented by that funding have mostly been wasted through bad management and partnering with MITIE.

Ceiling collapses on your daughter's bed...whatever...

At least public cash would no longer end up in MITIE shareholders' pockets and workers might be paid a living wage and not get picked up outside Wickes by gang masters every morning. But some may lament the contract extension with Baily Garner, who still have three more years to nonchalantly do irrelevant desk studies that bear no relation to the real state of the Lewisham stock. They are earning less than 2% of the final value of Major Works, which surely makes it within their interest to ensure the final costs are as high as possible.

For Decent Homes funding they advised their client to bid for the most astronomical figures they could get away with, and then once awarded, they were given the freedom to sign off on the works they themselves had prescribed. In the obvious absence of any direction from Lewisham Homes, they prescribed Health & Safety measures designed to last 20 years to stop the buildings falling on anybody but did not prevent killing them with damp, whilst ordering a cosmetic facelift to brickwork without even knowing this is a Conservation Area.
Oh yes, let's have the Wow factor and jetwash everything to buggery, scrape the skin off the bricks and blow out all the mortar, so they all have to be refaced and repointed. What's that? Damp? Ugh, you mean people actually want to live here?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Plans for Tidemill site – second consultation 10th October

Family Mosaic & Sherrygreen Homes are holding a second public consultation about their proposals for the regeneration of the old Tidemill School site, before submitting a planning application.

Saturday 10th October, 1-4pm, Deptford Lounge

A lo-res pdf of the exhibition boards presented in the previous exhibition in July is available to view on the dedicated website. The second consultation may (or may not) show some changes incorporated as a result of feedback from the first. Residents in Frankham House may want to see if there are any alterations to the proposal to build a five storey extension onto the old school that will butt up against the north end of Frankham. See previous post.

And recent visitors to Tidemill Garden during Deptford X 2015 may wonder which of the "mature trees" will be kept – in particular, two fantastic Indian bean trees that were probably planted by the late Jani Llewellyn, a Crossfields resident and Tidemill teacher who created the garden originally.

The developers will also be consulting on their plans for Amersham Vale on the same day (10am–1pm at the Moonshot Centre).

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guerilla art...Boris Island

Before Deptford X opened its doors last Friday evening, a scarecrow appeared on the Bird's Nest roundabout. Made of straw, brooms and a mop head, it sported a double breasted suit, shirt and tie – and the face on Boris Johnson on both sides.

The News Shopper picked up the story from Twitter yesterday and assumed the "man of straw" was part of Deptford X. It is not. Don't ask how we know, but it's not in the programme, and the organisers and artist(s) would have been obliged to seek the permission of TfL Highways and/or Lewisham Council to erect anything on the roundabout and would be highly unlikely to get it.

The scarecrow has survived the last few days without removal, and its tendency to turn in the wind like a whirling dervish (or weather vane) has been corrected. It is now being added to by locals and early this morning was to be seen completely re-costumed (with some very strange accessories) and no longer recognisable as Boris...though he may appear to some like this...

Update: Thursday 2nd October 

Boris is back! With a sidekick – possibly his Chief of Staff, Sir Edward Lister, the real power behind the throne (also known as "Eddie Air Miles" for his frequent trips to China and Hong Kong)...

Someone has glued some childrens' shoes to the base of the roundabout.

Update 9 November: Boris is still up...and has acquired a couple of accessories – two hanging baskets – one containing a synthetic cheeseplant, the other a large pound sign. Possibly a comment on the ludicrous Garden Bridge? Or perhaps the scales of justice are weighing in favour of green space versus developers...a local comment on the Tidemill development?...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Deptford High Street re-presented

The Academy of Urbanism has shortlisted Deptford High Street in its Urbanism Awards 2016. The awards aim to recognise "the best, most enduring or most improved urban environments". The Academy has visited and assessed "over 100 outstanding examples of good urbanism" in the UK, Ireland and Europe – and our high street is one of 15 finalists.

There are five categories – European City, Great Neighbourhood, Great Place, Great Town and Great Street. Deptford High Street has been shortlisted for the latter category, along with Cairns Street (a residential street in Liverpool) and Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork. The winners of each category will be announced on November 6th at the Academy's Awards Ceremony.

Update 9 November: The 'Great Street Award' was won by Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork. For more info on the winners click here.

Tower of Babel by Barnaby Barford
© V&A
Meanwhile, the high street is one of many represented in Barnaby Barford's Tower of Babel at the V&A. Barford has created a six metre tower out of 3000 individual hand-made bone china buildings, each depicting a real London shop. Barford calls it a snapshot of our times; it "forces you to think where you fit into this hierarchy of consumption". Expensive shops and galleries make up the top part of the tower, with the cheap shops at the bottom. Creative Review notes that "It feels apt that it is the cheaper stores that are the easiest to examine at the base of the sculpture, as arguably these are the most unique, compared to the high street chains and even fancy boutiques that are out of sight higher up". There are 32 Deptford shops at the base of the tower.

Each of the small models are for sale, varying in price from £95 to £6000. You can browse the Deptford shops via the online V&A shop – they vary in price from £110 to £250 and, at the time of writing, over half have sold but you can still pick up Kids Love Ink for £210.

Deptford High Street also features in the child-like drawings of Jeanette Parris, who is 'lead artist' at this year's Deptford X. For last year's festival, Jeanette "spent time talking with local residents and stallholders at Deptford Market" and her depictions of those conversations were printed as a comic  and handed out free. This year she has "been building on these conversations" to create an animation called Brief Encounter.

A scene from Brief Encounter © Jeanette Parris @ Deptford X 2015

The theme of this year's festival is 'Deptford Conversations' and Jeanette will be talking about Deptford with 50 other 'guest' artists about what they feel is relevant to it. Deptford X runs from 25th Sept to 4th Oct.  Follow on Twitter @DeptfordX and Facebook. Also see the Deptford Dame's round-up.

Meanwhile, local fears about gentrification of the high street are demonstrated in the leaflet below that was distributed in last Saturday's market...(click to enlarge).

Local responses to the refugee crisis

Artists at local studios Arthub collected a large
haul for CalAid at the beginning of September

Despite previous and ongoing news of refugees drowning in their thousands, it was the image of yet another child's death on September 2nd that prompted hundreds of people into action. Londoners' proximity to Calais has resulted in efforts focussed on helping refugees in the two camps there.

Before then, CalAid had already been organising to provide relief and shift public opinion, and its growing network of volunteers were ready to receive donations at various drop-off points, the nearest being in Dalston. Close to the situation on the ground, they have been able to advise on what is needed – and warn against people dropping donations directly to Calais. Their next drop to Calais is October 4th – check their Facebook page or Twitter for latest info.

But rather than go to Dalston, you can now drop off to CalAid locally. Some Lewisham councillors set up Lewisham for Refugees on 3rd September, and arranged for drop-off points in local libraries and other locations across the borough. In Deptford you can leave stuff at the Deptford Lounge and at MP Vicky Foxcroft's office at 82 Tanner's Hill, London, SE8 4PN (10am-4pm Mon-Fri).

Meanwhile, local artists in Creekside responded by organising a speedy collection for CalAid at their studios in Arthub, and two Crossfields residents, Sylvia and Amanda, set up separate initiatives in association with other organisations already working in Calais.

Sylvia's group is Calais in October, based at the Laban Centre where she works. Heading to Calais on 17th October with donations of both materials and "their time", the delegation also intends to provide workshops in traditional Middle Eastern dances for people in the camps, working alongside Music Against Borders. Their creative response is in recognition of "the importance of creativity and culture in empowering people disenfranchised by war".

Calais in October are receiving donations at the Laban Building in Office 1 (or leave with Reception for the attention of Sylvia Ferreira) and are requesting the following:

• Tents, Sleeping Bags, Blankets, Camp beds, Roll mats, Canvas sheets
• Men’s: Socks, Waterproofs, Jackets/Coats, Trainers and Boots
• Pans, Pots, Grills, Cooking utensils, Plastic cups, Mugs, Plates, Bowls, Cutlery
• Mobile phones and the Chargers (Unlocked)
• Plug adaptors (UK -> continental, for UK phone chargers, etc)
• LED wind up lanterns
• Wind up Radios
• Basic Learning books (different languages)
• Instruments (for Music Against Borders project)
• Money – via CalaisDonation to buy food and hygiene products

Music Against Borders have a musical instrument donation programme and will be taking mostly drums, guitars, percussive (and children's) instruments and running music workshops in Calais from 18th October. See here for more info on how to donate your unused instruments – or drop them off at the Laban.

Amanda's group is Refugee Relief 2015, created among friends on Facebook. They are heading to Calais on 7th November and have have obtained large material donations from Robert Dyas, Decathlon and Waitrose, and are also collecting individually in their workplaces (so no local drop-off point, but they could pick up from you nearer the time if you join the group). They also have a Just Giving page to donate cash to.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Deptford wears Prada

Spirit of '69 from WE ARE VANDALS on Vimeo.

I've no idea what this is about, but we're apparently so cool at Crossfields that Prada, Doc Martens and a host of other top brands decided to pay us a visit.  That's me in the Armani...

Spirit of '69 from WE ARE VANDALS on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tidemill redevelopment 'consultation': Saturday 18th July, 2-5pm, Deptford Lounge

Frankham House residents were given under two weeks' notification of the 'drop-in' being held this Saturday at the Lounge, where the plans for the redevelopment of the Tidemill school site will finally be revealed.

Tidemill consultation: Saturday 18th July, 2-5pm, Deptford Lounge

Frankham House sits on the corner of the site, and residents will be affected by building works which are scheduled to start in Autumn 2016. Presumably those also living close to the site in Frankham Street and Reginald Road will also have been notified. The gardening group, Assembly, who have had meantime use of the school garden area have not. Concerned that there will be a considerable loss of green space (the garden is one of the very few 'lungs' in the area), they have long been requesting site of the plans without success, and have even drawn up plans of their own that maximise use of green space.

Most affected by the proposals are the highly concerned residents of 2-30a Reginald Road whose building will be demolished. 

Others not notified will include those who will be affected by pollution and congestion from construction vehicles using Deptford Church Street (the rest of Crossfields, for instance), and Deptford High Street traders who will be troubled by the loss of parking space in Frankham Street.

The plans have been in development for a very long time amidst huge secrecy, and are fully backed by the council and local councillors, as the proposals are said to include a large amount of affordable housing for rent, shared ownership and private sale, with (apparently) relatively low building heights. A planning application will be submitted later this year.

The consultation notification (dated 7th July) came from Family Mosaic & Sherrygreen Ltd, the Council's selected partners, who will also be redeveloping the former Deptford Green School at Amersham Vale. Family Mosaic said (rather ungramatically), "The events will provide an opportunity for you to update you and receive your feedback on proposals for the development, the design and layout of the new homes and provide information about the construction programme and timescales for completion".

The last time there was any form of consultation was about five years ago when a board was displayed in Deptford Lounge, and information was available if you knew where to look – as Marmoset reported on this blog in September 2010.

Plans have since changed. The Council's website presently says: "A previous proposal incorporated the demolition and rebuilding of two blocks on Giffin Street (no’s 22–80 and 82–150), one block on Reginald Road (no’s 2–30a) and the conversion of the old Tidemill School buildings. However, after carrying out further investigation over the past year including in-depth technical surveys of all the above buildings, we have had to re-evaluate this scheme. Recent information about Lewisham Homes’ planned programme of works and the housing market conditions in the area has also led to us investigating a revised scheme which incorporates the following:
    •    demolishing 2-30a Reginald Road
    •    converting the old Tidemill School buildings into residential properties.
Under the current proposals, 22-80 and 82-150 Giffin Street and Frankham Street parking boulevard would be retained."

UPDATE: post consultation

Unfortunately, there were no pretty pictures to bring away from the exhibition and we forgot to take photos! We were told there will be a website soon. Areas on the plans that were debated were:

– an eastern extension to the old school building would, at five storeys, greatly infringe on the north end of Frankham House, whose residents presently look out over the small two-storey school-keeper's cottage. This would be demolished to be replaced by a sheer brick wall (no windows to overlook Frankham). Really bad for Frankham!

– an area of green space in the south eastern part of the site that would be walled off from Frankham House and paid for by new residents through service charges. It was suggested this should not be walled off and the area used for community growing. Oh but people will want a private area, said the architects, who would like to put a children's play area here "so that parents can see their children playing". Why must it be private? Why so exclusive?

– a wide pedestrian avenue would run from north to south in the centre of the development. The only reason for this, apart from opening up the estate, was some old tosh about it meeting the pathway through the blocks on Giffin Street that in turn would meet the gap between Wavelengths and the new Tidemill school/Lounge. There was apparently an earlier vision to open up one of the arches in 'Resolution Way' to lead through to Crossfield Street on the other side of the railway. Well, what a naff reason! The arch will never be opened up! The avenue is welcome, however. It was suggested the children's play area could go here rather than in the 'private' green area. Oh no, they said, we can't have a children's play area in a public space. What planet are these people living on? Inclusivity makes for a better community than fear-ridden security-driven exclusivity!

More soon...