The Back Story
If you have been following this saga of scaffolding and snagging in Fitzrovia feel free to skip the back story and jump to the paragraph below. But if you are new to the blog the back story is pretty essential reading.
- City West Homes are carrying out the first major refurbishment programme in Hanson Street W1 known as contract S163. The programme is months (in truth years) behind schedule.
- The programme affects seven Victorian / Edwardian apartment blocks in a conservation zone.
- A total of seven residential blocks in Hanson Street, W1 have been covered in scaffolding and green netting for up to 26 weeks.
- The scaffolding and the green netting have blighted the lives of approximately 100 residents who include elderly and disabled people.
- It is hard to tell when the buildings last received any significant care and attention. Judging by the appearance of the buildings, probably not since well before the end of last century.
- In January 2015, when asked if they had maintenances records for a specific block, City West Homes said the records had been destroyed. Now, in November 2015, City West claim that they do have the records. They say the records have been archived.
- City West Homes have communicated a number of different dates for the completion of the works, and so far, not one schedule has been correct.
- In May, City West Homes informed residents that the works would be completed in July 2015.
- In fact work did not start for real until August 2015, and even then, workers were thin on the ground.
- Works are still continuing in November 2015, 26 weeks after the first scaffolding was erected.
- Little work took place between May, when the scaffolding was first erected, and August 2015, when City West seemed to wake up to the fact that things were not going to plan.
- Concerned residents did try to find out what was happening but were ignored by City West Homes.
- Different reasons have been given for the delayed start: unexpected problems with a roof on a related job, taking longer than expected to choose the paint colours for the stairwells, having the wrong bricks, problems with access to the site, not being able to get a safety permit for the scaffolding, not having project monitoring systems in place.
- What seemed obvious to everyone except City West and Axis was the lack of a schedule of works, and a complete absence of leadership and project management skills.
- In August 2015, at the request of residents, there was a meeting with members of City West engagement team and an Axis Europe employee. This meeting was constructive.
- About this time City West Homes brought in a different team to manage the project. They have made a big difference.
- Axis also introduced some changes in the way they manage the works.
- Apart from the delays, the biggest issue has been quality.
- Both the external and internal decoration was so bad that in October 2015 City West called a halt to the decorating.
- Axis Europe then brought in decorators from other projects.
- The new teams have worked hard to get contract S163 back on track. They are making progress, particularly with improving the quality of the decoration.
- But there is still a way to go.
Internal Snagging may continue into January 2016
According to the latest communication from City West Homes, the scaffolding will come down by 18 December 2015.
Internal snagging may continue into January 2016.
So a programme of works that was scheduled to take three months may eventually take nine (May 2015-January 2016).
That’s nine months without proper daylight for over 100 people, not to mention the inevitable noise and dirt.
What have the senior management team at City West Homes learned from Contract S163?
The big issue now is what are the senior management at City West Homes doing to improve their ability to manage large programmes of work?
Over the next 5 years City West Homes will manage £249 million of major works across Westminster. That is what City West Homes claim.
Can we trust them to do a good job?
An open invitation to the Chief Executive of City West Homes
The managing director of Axis Europe has visited the site in Hanson Street several times to find out for himself what is happening, and listen to residents’ concerns.
Residents have twice invited the Chief Executive of City West Homes to visit Hanson Street. He could learn a lot (like the MD of Axis Europe) from seeing the impacts of poor project management on the very people who depend on City West Homes to look after their homes.
That invitation is still open.