Fire safety works at Spa Green Estate further delayed by faulty pipes
PUBLISHED: 19:19 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:34 20 September 2019
Two years after Islington Council accepted the Spa Green Estate needs essential fire safety work, neighbours must endure a further delay due to faulty pipes.
At Spa Green Management Organisation's (SPGO) annual general meeting last night, neighbours asked why pipes fitted 10 years ago, which should last for 25 to 50 years, have caused heating issues and leaks in multiple flats.
Potter Raper Partnership, the independent fire auditor commissioned by the council at the SPGO's request, has completed its year-long survey of flats and has just started installing fire stopping in a handful of "pilot flats" in the estate.
But it looks as though an investigation into what's wrong with the pipes, due to finish in January, will be completed before fire protection is fitted in the rest of the flats, to save the council doing work twice.
Fire stopping would reinstate the building's compartmentalisation, designed to contain a fire in the flat it starts in rather than allowing it to spread to others. A catastrophic failure of compartmentalisation at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 contributed to the fire that killed 72 people.
Long-standing SPGO secretary Pam Mullen said: "We have had so many leaks since the first bank holiday of this year. I have had four leaks in my flat and I'm on the first floor. They have come from the flats above. We have had so many conversations, tried to get people out [to fix them]."
A neighbour named Jodie added: "The whole of my cupboard was pouring with water, which obviously was going into Pam's."
Estate manager Thomas Cooper said on one occasion a leak was running from the seventh floor to the ground floor and contractors "took 13 days to turn up" for a plumbing job that took an hour.
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Islington Council's technical services manager Garrett McEntree said: "In relation to response times it's fair to say we are having a challenge with the new provider.
"It's not just on this estate - it's other estates as well. MPS, a subsidiary of Mears, have taken over. Since they have taken over the contract we have been having difficulties with them. They have fairly significant resource shortages and one of the biggest areas is they can't find engineers to do the work. It's not a case of 'we have appointed Mears' - they have taken over the contract. I'm expecting that by the end of November things will begin to improve."
Mears already has a separate contract providing repairs and maintenance work for Islington Council.
Mr McEntree said Islington can "terminate" the contract if results don't improve but this is an expensive and lengthy process.
With regard to the piping, Mr McEntree said materials from the same manufacturer are installed at other estates in the borough that haven't had issues, hence the investigation. He suggested neighbours' service charges could cover potential replacement works, but Ms Watson said: "If work is done and it's defective it's not down to the tenants to pay. That's absolutely clear in our minds."
A neighbour asked who would pay for the fire stopping. Mr McEntree said: "It's not my decision but I did say unofficially I don't think the costs are going to be passed on [to residents]."
TMO (tenant management organisation) manager Mr Cooper also called for more support from Clerkenwell Ward police officers, saying "resource starved" forces are the "weakest, arguably broken link in the chain".
He added: "As you know, over months I and other residents have been complaining about the gang who assemble and come onto the estate."
Thomas said he's a "single office worker, typically with an open door, without a stab vest" who doesn't feel he gets the support he needs from officers when crime and antisocial behaviour happens in the estate.
But the TMO's stand-in chair Rachel Watson also praised cops and the council for tackling issues of open crack and heroin use in Spa Green Gardens, calling it "one of the big success stories from the year".