Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ugly Plastic Very-ungreen and basically Cr*p Windows (aka UPVC)

A number of residents have been in touch recently concerned at Council plans to rip out their/their neighbours wooden sash windows and replace them with UPVC ones, as part of the decent homes programme. Those Council-owned or leased properties within the conservation area will get wooden sash windows on planning grounds, but the 40 or so Victorian properties that are within the Brockley PFI area but outside of the conservation area, get UPVC.

I'd like to make it clear that the Green group objected to this well before the Brockley PFI contract was signed, on environmental as well as aesthetic grounds, but the Council went for the UPVC ones on short-term cost grounds. As someone who's in the process of getting quotes for new double-glazed wooden sash windows to replace my rotting ones, I know just how expensive they can seem, compared to UPVC, but if properly maintained they can last over a hundred years, the thermal properties of wood are superior to plastic and you don't have the problem of disposing of hazardous materials when they reach the end of their useful life.

Some residents on Algiers Road are so annoyed that it has spurred them into setting up a residents' association and I've also been contacted by residents on Vicars Hill up in arms at the plans.

It's worth noting of course that many tenants and leaseholders are absolutely delighted that their rotten, draughty windows are finally being replaced and as I posted last month, leaseholders can opt to arrange to get their windows replaced themselves and have wooden instead of UPVC (provided they meet certain criteria), but tenants do not get that choice. In the current political environment when politicians in the main parties are falling over each other to offer 'choice' in healthcare, education etc (when people generally just want a good locally-provided service), it seems like Council tenants and leaseholders in Brockley and Ladywell are being given something of a Hobson's choice.

So to sum up, they look naff, they're not the green option, but the contract has been signed and unless valid planning grounds are found to object they are likely to be installed (I did ask the Mayor last night to ask if he fancied extending the Brockley Conservation Area to include Vicars Hill, but he was rather cautious, having been threatened with a judicial review after doing a similar thing in Sydenham when the Greyhound pub was threatened with demolition!). I hope that lessons will be learnt and wooden windows will be stipulated when drawing up future contracts.

For further info on the comparative benefits of UPVC versus wooden windows, please see the response to Cllr Romayne Phoenix's question to the cabinet member for customer services in May last year.

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