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We have had the message below from the council regarding heating problems on the St. Silas estate.
We are putting pressure on the council to resolve this as soon as possible, and to get heaters out to all residents affected – it just isn’t acceptable to leave residents without heating or hot water in weather as cold as this. We’re also asking for the cause to be properly investigated – as this is the second time this year that St. Silas residents have been hit by heating problems, and both in the middle of Winter.
If you live on the estate and are not on our email list please do get in touch so we can get quick updates out to you.
Regrettably earlier this evening I was informed that the heating and hot water has been shut down to the whole of the St Silas estate. This was because of a leak / burst on the estates system pipework and unable to hold pressures.
Engineers from Apollo have recently been able to isolate the area that has the burst and restored the pressure within the system, whereby returned the heating and hot water to the blocks: Southfleet; Burmarsh; Headcorn; Lenham; Halstow; Cheirton; Fordcombe.
Engineers are remaining on site and doing what they can to restore the heating and hot water to the remaining blocks that are still off, thus have no heating or hot water. These are: Penshurst; Westwell; Wingham; Leysdown; Chislet; Stonegate.
Once Apollo have done all they can to restore the heating services to the remaining blocks off and have a clear-cut idea on what is required to repair, then any properties that are remaining off, a letter and temporary heaters will be delivered informing residents on what we are doing to restore the heating and hot water.
Vital lift repairs at Aspen House on Maitland Park have been indefinitely suspended by Labour councillors.
After local Liberal Democrat councillors raised concerns about damaged and frequently faulty lifts in the block, Camden Council wrote to residents at the end of 2012 promising that the lifts would finally be replaced. Now, however, residents have received a further letter saying that the plans have been withdrawn.
The council are considering redeveloping the whole Aspen House site in the future, which could include demolition of the block.
While it clearly wouldn’t make sense to splash out on new facilities only to dismantle them a few months later, as yet there are no firm plans for redevelopment and no public timescale. Other Camden developments, like the Abbey Estate in Kilburn, have been under discussion for almost seven years without a single brick being laid despite numerous planning applications. It cannot be right to withhold basic repairs from residents for years on end while the council deliberates over the future of an estate.
I raised the Aspen House lifts and the wider development plans in the council chamber in a debate on housing last night at a Full Council meeting, and will continue to challenge the council to set out their plans more clearly. You can watch the debate here.
Jill Fraser has clocked up an incredible ten years serving local people as Haverstock’s Liberal Democrat councillor.
Local residents first elected Jill in a sensational by-election in 2003. Back then Haverstock was solid Labour territory but, once people saw the difference a hardworking Liberal Democrat councillor can make, they elected two more of us!
Working with Jill has been a real honour. You would be hard pressed to find a local councillor who has a better understanding of the patch and people she represents. Jill is someone who sticks to what she thinks is right, never takes no for an answer, and always remembers whose side she is on. It is these principles that have led us to some terrific wins for local people over the years – from saving Bassett Street Garden; putting Steele’s Village on the map; securing proper investment for local homes after years of neglect by Labour; and, of course, Jill’s constant crusade to secure the future of Queen’s Crescent.
Last night we hosted a big party in Steele’s Village to celebrate Jill’s achievements, and were delighted that Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP was able to join us. But the real testament to Jill’s work was probably the large number of local residents, many of them not political, who also came along because they wanted to thank Jill for her decade of service.
So, big thanks to everyone who joined us, and here’s to the next ten years!
Six local estates are stuck without heating and hot water for the third day running. The heating failure couldn’t have come at a worse time – with outside temperatures plunging into the minuses last night.
I have been in constant contact with the council on this critical issue. The burst pipe causing the problem was identified on the underground heating mains pipe work yesterday. The council’s contractors, Apollo, need to cut out and replace pipe work 1 meter either side of the burst. These works will continue from 6.30am today, when welders will begin the replacement of the pipe work.
After that, Apollo need to refill and vent any air to each of the blocks – this work is unfortunately expected to continue into Friday evening.
I will keep up the pressure on the council to have the work complete before the weekend – and am also urging them to provide extra electric heaters and open up the hot showers at Kentish Town Baths for affected residents.
The estates are Penshurst, Leysdown, Stonegate, Wingham, Westwell, and Chislet. If you are a resident in one of these blocks please do get in touch and I can keep you updated.
Update 9:30am Friday 22nd February: Camden have agreed to my request to allow residents of the affected blocks a free shower/swim at Kentish Town Baths. If you live in one of the blocks above you just need to report to the reception with proof of your address. This will apply today and tomorrow, when the works should be complete and the heating restored.
Update 9pm Friday 22nd February: The leak is now fixed and Camden are firing up the boilers again. It will take a few hours for heat to make its way through the system, but normal service will be resumed in the next couple of hours.
Schools and children’s services look set to be hardest hit by the strike action tomorrow, while many other services in Camden will remain open or partically open.
In Haverstock the notable exceptions are Talacre Sports Centre and Queen’s Crescent Library, which both look likely to remain closed for the day.
I’ve reproduced the council’s full summary below, but it’s worth keeping an eye on Camden’s website for further updates. For more information on the background to the strikes and the government’s most recent offer on pensions, the Guardian has a pretty balanced report, here.
Children, schools and families services
- Schools – most schools in Camden will be closed. Parents will have been informed by their child’s school.
- Integrated early years– parents will have been informed by their Children’s Centres. Most will be closed.
- Family services and social work– we will deal with cases on an emergency priority basis.
- Integrated youth support service–YOS Highbury court and essential services will be open.
- Children, schools and families customer service and complaints– will offer a reduced but open service.
- Welfare, inclusion and support in education– will offer a reduced but open service.
- Children’s social work and QA – an emergency service will operate.
Housing and adult social care services
Most of our housing and adult social care services are expected to remain open or partially open, including some of our frontline adult social care services. We are not expecting any of these services to fully close.
Please see a summary below, which will be updated on Wednesday morning:
- Assessment and care management service (this team assesses people’s social care needs and arranges services accordingly) – will be open.
- Careline telecare (our 24 hour telephone support service for vulnerable people) – will be running
- Temporary accommodation (hostels) – will be open
- Residential care homes – will be open
- Supported living services (support services provided to vulnerable tenants) – will be open
- Housing repairs and improvements – will be partially open. We are rescheduling planned work so that we will be able to respond to emergencies and urgent repairs
- Passenger and accessible transport service – is expected to run as usual but will be assessed on Wednesday.
Culture and environment services
- Libraries– we expect to open Swiss Cottage, Holborn and St Pancras libraries, however activities planned for 30 November will not be taking place. All library activities and services will run as usual from Thursday 1 December 2011.
- Camden transport services – there is likely to be considerable disruption. Demand for services will be assessed on the day.
- Environment services – there may be slight delays but most activities will not be affected.
- Leisure centres – Talacre Sports Centre as well as Cantelowes and Camden Town sports pitches will be closed.
- Registrars will be open for the registration of deaths.
They’ve included my letter, focussing on the negligible amount of affordable housing on the Hawley Wharf site:
Hawley Wharf is one of the largest and most high profile development sites in Camden. It is therefore incredible that, with thousands of local families languishing on Camden’s housing waiting list, the scheme on the table proposes just 8% affordable housing against the council’s target of 50%.
Time and time again the council states that housing is a site’s priority, only to ditch it at the last minute when something sexier comes up. Readers will remember that this is what happened at Brill Place, and it’s happening again here.
We have to face up to the reality that Camden desperately needs new homes, and they aren’t going to appear by magic. Land in our borough is precious and it would be shameful to squander this unique opportunity to provide for local families.
Since writing this, I’ve learnt that my numbers are out of date and the amount of affordable housing has actually fallen – to just 5%.
The developer does plan to provide a new primary school on the site instead – which is a good thing that few would oppose. However, my argument here lies with the council. At some point we have to tell one of our developers that the need for more affordable housing in Camden is so acute and so urgent that, this time, it trumps everything else.
Update 14th November: There has been some confusion over the actual percentage of affordable housing. After questioning the developer tonight I’m happy to clarify that the 8% quoted in my original letter is in fact correct. The 5% figure refers to the proportion of social housing. In addition to these 9 units of social housing there are 8 units of intermediate housing, making 17 “affordable” units in total – or 8%.
The final decision on the future of the former Prince of Wales Road Polytechnic building (now a branch of Pizza Express) has been delayed until November.
The Camden New Journal have printed a great photo of the rally to save the much loved building, taken by residents on the day. You can just make out me, in green on the left, and Jill Fraser, slap bang in the middle – alongside campaigners from across Kentish Town. It’s a real shame we will now have to wait a little longer to see if our campaign has been successful.
The developer claims the building, which he wants to replace with luxury flats, is not the “special landmark” that local people say it is. Frankly, I believe local residents are best placed to decide which buildings are our special local landmarks. That’s why, whichever way this decision ultimately goes, we need a local list set up as soon as possible to protect important pieces of Camden heritage.
Plans for the mass redevelopment of the Hawley Wharf site opposite Camden Market have been submitted to the council this week.
For over two years, I have been working with other local councillors, residents and business groups to influence the developer’s proposals. While it’s great that this ramshackle and tawdry site (partly gutted by the fire back in 2008) will finally get a make over, we need to make sure the development respects our local area and makes Camden Town an even better place to live.
Judged against these criteria, and despite the developer taking on a few of our ideas, I believe the proposals currently fall short on several scores:
- Just 8% of the new housing on the site will be affordable, despite Camden setting a target of 50% and housing being the priority need in the area;
- Open spaces are poky and overshadowed by huge blocks;
- No evidence has yet been provided that local transport infrastructure will be able to cope with large numbers of extra visitors to a new four story “market”;
- There is no mechanism to secure new outlets that will bring retail diversity to Camden, to appeal to a different demographic.
Frankly, this new development feels like a shopping mall disguised as a market. Yet there is already a huge, commercial market on the other side of Chalk Farm Road, attracting thousands of visitors a week.
I believe most residents and local businesses would like to see a scheme that looks to Camden Lock’s origins as a place for craftsmanship, entrepreneurship and creativity, while offering something for the local people who currently feel frozen out of their own area.
Councils like Camden are to be given even more powers to tackle empty homes in the borough, and extra cash for local services if they succeed. Meanwhile, owners who leave homes to rot could be hit where it hurts: in their pocket.
A clamp down on empty property featured in the Liberal Democrat manifesto last year. Now, with Liberal Democrats in government, our local campaign to rescue some of Haverstock’s wasted homes has had a huge shot in the arm.
Specifically, Camden Council needs to tackle 2 Malden Road and 201 Prince of Wales Road. These are two properties where, faced with council complacency, I have taken matters into my own hands and written directly to the owners. But landowners have little incentive to do anything when they know the council will continue to turn a blind eye.
If you are one of the thousands of families who has been stuck for years on the housing waiting list, there can be few things more disheartening, and downright offensive, than a perfectly good home sitting empty just around the corner.
If you are a skilled tradesman out of work, you know you could fix up these properties if only the money was there. And, if you live on the same street as a derelict home, it is utterly miserable watching your neighbourhood literally falling to pieces.
Camden’s problem with empty homes is so acute we have been specifically targeted by squatters groups.
I will be pushing hard for Camden to use these new powers, alongside the ones they already have, to turn around empty properties in Haverstock. That could mean extra cash for local services, more jobs for tradesmen, communities cleaned up and, crucially, more homes for local families in need.
Camden Council has today controversially been ordered to disclose it’s list of empty properties under the Freedom of Information Act.
Of course it’s true that squatters can sometimes (though not always) cause real havoc in a community. However, you don’t get squatters without empty homes. The real scandal here is the number of properties the council have allowed to simply sit empty, sometimes for years, while thousands of local families languish on housing waiting lists.
The answer is not to invite squatters to move in, but to push harder for the owners of derelict homes to bring them back into use. The legal tools are there, the council just need to be willing to use them.
In Haverstock we have at least two long term empty properties in prominent locations that really bring down the area: at 2 Malden Road and 201 Prince of Wales Road. I have spent years trying to get action on these properties; haranguing the council’s legal and planning departments; involving the local Safer Neighbourhood team and Camden’s community safety staff and challenging the Cabinet Member for Housing at council meetings. I’ve even taken matters into my own hands, tracking down owners and urging them to complete renovation work.
Every step of the way, the list of excuses for doing nothing is endless.
The fact is, sometimes an owner lives a long way away, has no experience of planning or renovation, and finds it less hassle just to let a property rot. Instead of just accepting this situation, the council needs to apply both carrot and stick: coaxing and guiding absent owners through the planning system while making life difficult if they won’t play ball. We could even champion innovative schemes such as property guardianship (which isn’t really suitable for families, but can help a young person while providing some security for the property owner and the local community).
As it is, Camden’s utter complacency on this issue is letting down both local residents and those families in need of a home.
If you’re interested, you can read more from the excellent Empty Homes charity.