The activity captured in this photograph gives me a considerable glow of satisfaction. What is going on? It is a picture of workmen carrying slabs of insulation into Cluse Court in readiness to insulate the roof. So why the glow of satisfaction?
I was approached in February 2010 by a group of residents on Cluse Court, all of whom live in maisonettes on the top two floors of the 118-136 block. They all said that they were getting quantities of water dripping down off their upstairs ceilings, that they were having to mop the ceilings 2-3 times a week, and that their attempts get anything done about it had resulted in various fob-offs and excuses, odd bits of sticking-plaster repairs, but no real resolution to the problem.
Because I work in architectural practice I decided the best thing to do was to get up on the roof and have a look for myself. I was told I was not allowed. I was convinced that the problem was condensation due to a lack of insulation on the roof. Repairs were saying it was leaks, and people running their heating too hot. ‘Lifestyle issues’, as they liked to say, which of course completely absolves them from having to do anything about it.
I asked again to be allowed up onto the roof and was told “no” again. I asked why, and was told it was due to Health and Safety at Work legislation. My fellow Councillor Gary Doolan kindly pointed out that I do not work for the Council, I am an elected member. The legislation does not apply. It was agreed that I could go up on the roof. This was in May, after my request was originally made in February. So it took me three months just to get up on the roof to have a look.
On the day I was due to get up on the roof, a council worker (Theresa Penfold, who was very helpful) arrived to let me up on the roof, but there was no ladder. She had to make a phone call to a contractor working for the council on another estate, and borrow a ladder. The whole procedure suggested that maintenance access to the roof must be virtually non-existent. When we got up there, there was huge pile of rubbish on the roof (yes, on the roof) including old crash helmets, empty cable drums, bits of wire, bits of wood, buckets, and builders rubble. One of the officers said “Oh, we’ll have to get a quote to get that taken away”. I couldn’t believe the bureaucracy needed to get rid of something that shouldn’t be there in the first place if the roof was being properly maintained.
I stood on the roof, gave the surface a sharp downward kick with my heel, and knew immediately that I was hitting concrete, and that there was no insulation at all on the roof. The only thing separating residents on the top floor from the frozen outside world was 150mm of concrete. No wonder their ceilings were dripping. I was satisfied my instinct about the lack of insulation had been proved correct, and I then set about trying to convince HFI that I was right.
Suffice to say that between May 2010 and now, it has taken nearly another two years to get to a point where I had not only convinced HFI the work needed doing, but to get it done.
Sometime you need a bit of tenacity to be a Councillor.