Monday, November 10, 2008

Ladywell Lodge Saved from UPVC Attack!

The picture above is of Ladywell Lodge, Dressington Avenue, one of the remaining buildings from the Ladywell Infirmary, part of the Bermondsey Workhouse which occupied a large swathe of land in Ladywell at the beginning of the last century ( the whole area where Dressington Avenue, Slagrove Place etc are now). It's Council-owned and comes under the Brockley PFI housing area (part of it is residential and the rest is Abbey Manor College).

It's not in a conservation area and so, in accordance with the terms of their contract, Regenter B3 applied to replace the existing wooden sash windows with UPVC ones. Residents, Ladywell Society and Ute and I all objected on the grounds that it was a historically and architecturally important local building and that the UPVC windows would be out of keeping.

I'm delighted to have learnt today that Lewisham Planning agreed with us and have turned the application down on the following grounds:

"the windows proposed, by reason of their material, would be inappropriate to the appearance of the building and would fail to respect the period and architectural characteristics of the building, contrary to Policies URB 3 Urban Design and URB 6 Alterations and Extensions in the adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004)".

Personally, I think the building may be a candidate for listing by English Heritage, though I imagine it has been altered quite significantly inside.

So another small victory in the ongoing battle led by Ladywell Society and leaseholders against UPVCisation of Ladywell by Lewisham Council. The leaseholders I've had contact with in the building are delighted. The downside is that the work that will now be carried out to these properties as part of the Brockley PFI Decent Homes programme will not achieve as high standards of thermal efficiency as other properties in the PFI area.

This isn't because it is impossible, or against planning law etc, but because it costs more and the limitations of the PFI contract as agreed between Lewisham and Regenter B3 mean that residents in Victorian properties in the conservation area and properties such as this are only getting their windows over-hauled and draught-proofed, not wooden framed double glazing as they could get. As in most cases they are solid brick walls, not cavity, they are also not getting wall insulation, so besides loft insulation, the improvements the Council is making to the thermal efficiency of these homes, is pretty minimal compared to others in the PFI programme.

It is shocking that in the 1500-page PFI contract, so little attention was paid to how to improve the thermal efficiency of the conservation area and Victorian properties, which form a significant part of the PFI area. I think the Council needs to look again at this, and consider whether it could installing wooden-framed double glazing or at the very least secondary glazing for these homes over the next few years, and, when homes are redecorated or relet, installing internal wall insulation to bring them up to reasonable standards of energy efficiency.

Better still, these issues need to be taken on board at a regional level, by the Mayor of London, and at a national level, by the Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Energy. By all means start with a programme to roll out free cavity wall and loft insulation to all those homes that can have it - it would achieve the biggest bang for your buck in the short term (Green Party policy, not yet government policy), but we also need to start thinking about the 40% or so of London homes that are solid wall Victorian properties - more of a challenge, but key to reducing London's carbon emissions. So if you happen to be reading this, Ed Milliband, I suspect the conservation area tenants in Brockley PFI would love to be in a pilot scheme for improving the thermal efficiency of Victorian Conservation Area Council housing . . .

3 comments:

Tressillian James said...

Sue - how about the right to Quiet Enjoyment of our homes as protected under our leases? You are suggesting that the council come back in a few years (after having refurbished our windows and leaseholders having paid that cost) to then put in secondary glazing. This would be at further cost to leaseholders and further disruption. Disruption not only in works but having to, invariably, deal with mistaken S20s, works against our wishes, and Regenter B3 communications.

Moreover, secondary glazing is one part of the Decent Homes Standard. The Standard does not apply to Leaseholder's - surely secondary galzing is a matter of choice for individual leaseholders? Also the glazing is part of the demised premises, owned by leaseholders, not the council. Surely, we have the right of choice over our own, paid-for, homes.

Brockely Leaseholder's Association Committee Member

Sue Luxton said...

Hi James
I think leaseholders and tenants are coming at this from slightly different angles.

Leaseholders are telling me their priority is to preserve the Victorian character of their homes and that they don't want to be forced to carry out work they feel is unnecessary, which I fully understand.

Tenants meanwhile are saying that their homes are cold and draughty and they want more done to improve the energy efficiency and to reduce the impact of rising fuel bills, which I also understand.

The challenge for us as councillors is to ensure the concerns of both groups are addressed.

I'm fine with leaseholders making their own decisions on windows etc and wouldn't have a problem with leaseholders living in draughty energy inefficient homes if they really wanted to, but I would have a concern if tenants were forced to live in such conditions because the Council hadn't done enough to bring their homes up to good energy efficiency standards.

I think this round of works was a wasted opportunity to improve the thermal efficiency of the Council housing stock in the conservation area and the Victorian properties outside it, and tenants will have to deal with higher fuel bills as a result. It is inconsistent to install double glazing for tenants in homes outside the conservation area, but not those within. Yes wooden-framed double glazing or secondary glazing is expensive, but the Council needs to be installing it. Solid wall insulation is more tricky, as it would need to be applied internally in the conservation area and this would be difficult to do when the property is occupied, but the Council could look at a programme of installing solid wall insulation in void Victorian properties before re-letting them.

About 50% of the housing stock across London is Victorian and solid wall. Schemes currently exist for loft insulation and cavity wall insulation, but we need to look at the specific challenges of insulating solid wall Victorian properties. Some kind of regional or national programme to insulate our existing housing stock is urgently needed (both privately-owned and Council). Germany has been doing this and the UK needs to follow suit.

Julian said...
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