Keeping the residents in the dark
On 5 June I posted a photo of my block – now shrouded in green mesh – on my FaceBook page. At the time I was expecting the works to start imminently. City West had confirmed in writing that all the works would be completed by 26 July 2015.
Like many streets in W1 Hanson Street has problem with refuse dumping, dog poo and general litter. When the scaffolders drilled into the building to secure the scaffolding, they scattered red brick dust on the door step, on the windows, and on the staircase to the basement. The combination of street refuse and scaffolders brick and saw dust was a bit too much.
The impact on my neighbours
I asked my neighbours how they were coping with the scaffolding. One said her daughter was crying. Another complained about the dust and the dark. A third said the scaffolding was ruining his children’s annual holiday. A fourth complained about the noise.
Weeks went by and nothing happened. I wondered why City West were keeping such a low profile.
Slow progress erecting the scaffolding
On 22 June I contacted both the contractor Axis, and the management company, City West Homes. I asked how much longer it would take to finish the scaffolding, and what could be done about the mess at the front of the building. Axis said the work would probably take another two weeks. They also said they had spoken with the scaffolders, and that they would ‘try to keep the mess a minimum’.
Asked why it was taking so long to erect the scaffolding, Axis told me the scaffolders had run out of scaffolding the previous week. My neighbours and I could not help noticing that the scaffolders worked a very short day.
City West did not reply.
Living in a building site
As far as I could see, no attempt was made by anyone to clean up the mess. Effectively we were living in the middle of a building site. The fact that we had to live in a building site while no work was taking place was extra-aggravating.
Still no reply from City West Homes
On 29 June, the mess was still there. I wrote to a senior manager at City West, and also two other managers. I also copied in Axis. The senior manager did not reply. I received two ‘out of office’ messages from the other managers. What I could not understand was why – as far as I could see – there was no City West presence on the site. If I worked on the project I would visit the site myself and check progress with my own eyes.
Axis, however, did reply. They said they would ask the site supervisor if the dust could be cleared up. Later they said that the mess would be cleared up. Axis also contacted a member of staff at City West who told me she was no longer in the Marylebone team, but that she had copied my email to the appropriate housing manager. The housing manager telephoned me and told me she would pursue the litter problem with the relevant department. She also acted upon another issue that is unrelated to the building works.
On 6 July the mess was still there, and no building work had taken place. From what I could see somebody was using a ladder to access the scaffolding. A neighbour told me people were up and down the scaffolding inspecting the building.
Waiting for the colour schemes?
On 6 July I emailed the City West Liaison Officer on what was his first day back in the office. He telephoned me the same day, and we had a conversation about the various issues included scaffolding that was blocking the pavement further up the street. The City West Liaison officer told me he was having a meeting with Axis on 9 July. He said that with the scaffolding in place they were now inspecting parts of the building that were harder to reach. He mentioned that they were also waiting for colour schemes for the stairwells. I thought it was strange that a project this size was being delayed by the lack of colour schemes for the stairwells.
Contacting the cleaning manager
The City West Liaison Officer gave me the mobile number of the person at City West who was responsible for cleaning. I rang him. He said he would send someone to assess the situation. This sounded like one step back from actually doing any cleaning. I did not hear back from the cleaning manager. There is a monthly charge for cleaning.
Another step backwards?
On 7 July I decided to take some photos of the brick dust. I discovered that the top step of the iron stairs to the basement was loose. I told the housing manager. She arranged for an emergency repair. At present the gate to the stair case is padlocked and no-one can use it. I couldn’t help wondering when the step had become loose and why it had not been picked up before.
Since then, there have been no developments. The rain has washed away most of brick dust. The regular cleaner washed the front door step at my request. No work has taken place since the scaffolding was erected 6 weeks ago.
Of course, erecting scaffolding around 4 large Victorian buildings is a relatively big undertaking. There is no doubt that the work is necessary. The blocks have not been properly maintained for decades.
What concerns me is just how long it is all going to take.
I am also worried about the quality of the work. Recently we had a new intercom system installed. The company that fitted the system stuffed Kleenex down the side of the entry panel. Later the kleenex was painted over. The surround was left unpainted.
Can we rely on the scaffolders to make good the holes they have drilled in the external walls? Asked by me, Axis said the scaffolders would fill the holes. Based on my experience so far, I find this hard to believe.