PFI uPVC OMG

Beatrice sent us this article about homes in Ladywell:

Leaseholders in Ladywell are up in arms about a plan to install uPVC windows in their period homes.

The Victorian houses in Algiers Road, Vicars Hill and surrounding streets lie between the St Mary's and Brockley conservation areas. Lewisham council owns the freehold of most of the properties, which come into the Brockley Private Finance Initiative regeneration scheme.
Regenter B3, which manages council property, wants to rip out original doors and windows in the homes of both council tenants and leaseholders.


Leaseholders are furious because they face bills of up to £18,000 for work they say is unnecessary and inappropriate.

UPVC features, they say, would spoil the look of their homes - with distinctive wooden sash windows and ornamental doors.

Leaseholders can replace doors and windows themselves but the specifications they have been given mean costs would be even higher.

We can only describe this as an act of vandalism on an industrial scale, damaging the character of whole streets.

Of course, homes need to be made more energy efficient, but uPVC is not the way to do it. uPVC contains environmentally harmful materials and, bluntly, is incredibly ugly. Wooden frame double glazing is just as effective and not much more expensive.

So leaseholders are faced with having to pay large bills for work that they don't want done to their house, which could ultimately reduce the resale value of their property. They have the choice to pay more to install wood, but with many already struggling to meet the costs of the work, many will find it hard to justify the extra cost.

Tenants have no choice at all in the matter.

In our view, residents have every right to be furious and the Council should try to broker a better solution as soon as possible.

48 comments:

barryls said...

Is this just a way to cream some money off those leaseholders who bought from the council a few years ago?

After all there are still lots of council blocks of flats with original draughty metal casement windows all over Lewisham, which you would have thought would be a better place for their beloved UPVC.

Anonymous said...

...I thought that if you are in the Conservation area replacing sash windows with pvc windows is not allowed.

Brockley Nick said...

Correct, but these houses aren't in a conservation area.

Brabuhr said...

Suggest leaseholders contact the Victorian Society for advice:

http://www.victorian-society.org.uk

Pete said...

I live on Algiers Road and whilst I think it is very unfair on the leaseholders who are having this forced on them they will not be able to oppose it on planning grounds.

Many of the houses on Algiers road already have PVC windows (including my downstairs neighbour) and obviously this has already changed the look of the street for the worse.

Anonymous said...

Talk about having a lack of pride in the area you are supposedly elected to care about...

Bloody and vandals and shysters.

Bea said...

Having had a quick browse round the Victorian Society website why can't Regenter upgrade using secondary glazing rather than uPVC?

"The advantages of secondary glazing are:

- it does not interfere with the exterior fenestration

- the bigger the gap between the exterior and interior panes, the better the insulation -- particularly noise insulation

- it is cheaper than replacing the original windows

- it is reversible”

TM said...

It continually suprises me that people pay, often hundreds of thousands of pounds for a leasehold property then express suprise when the freeholder, their landlord, does something they do not like to it and to rub salt into the wound, asks them to pay for it.

Unfortunately it will no doubt be written into their lease how this all works but either they or their solicitors failed to read this properly when they bought the place otherwise they would know things like this are likely to happen.

The council has privatised the maintenace of its property, no doubt to "save" money and this is the result.

I am sure the accountants at Regenter B3 can justify the wholesale replacement, as the whole life costs of PVCu will come out cheaper as they suposedely don't need as much maintnenace. Aesthetics and the environment currently don't have a monetary value.

Secondary glazing might be cheaper than replacement windows but it does not stop the originals still needing painting and repairing every 5 years.

Life is never as straight forward as it seems.

Bea said...

tm - true but UPVC needs replacing every 30 years or so whereas the original windows have, in many cases, been there longer than 100.

Say the windows are painted every 5 years then the cost of the paint and labour is actually about the same over the lifetime of UPVC.

TM said...

Bea

You and I know that, but try telling the accountants. Their models rarely refelect what happens over a long period of time

Then again I don't expect the Victorians expected their timber windows to last over 100 years.

Who is to say whether or not some PVC ones may last as long? There is a great range in the quality of the ones I have seen. Some are much prettier than others too.

Tamsijn said...

Although this is ostensibly in order to be green and save the planet, uPVC is an absoltute environmental menace menace when it comes to disposal at the end of its life - 30 years or whatever. There are various papers about it in the public domain - but of course such matters are conveniently ignored.

Tamsin said...

PS - Like the blog heading!

Sue Luxton said...

I would strongly urge leaseholders in the Brockley PFI area to seek advice, such as from the Leasehold Advisory Service if they have concerns/queries about the section 20 notices they have been given:
http://www.lease-advice.org/.
I know that these notices are causing a lot of distress to people and in some cases have been inaccurate and misleading (eg including the cost of replacing the roof when no roof repairs were necessary, or cost of caretaking of communal areas when there is no caretaker, such as in a converted house). If in doubt, do query them.

I know that Dean (Cllr Dean Walton) recently organised a meeting between B3 representatives and leaseholders in Brockley ward to discuss concerns/problems and if Ladywell ward residents who are in the next 'zone' (Algiers, Veda, Vicar's Hill etc) would like me to arrange a similar meeting for them, please let me know.

PS: I posted smthg on this a few weeks back too:
http://tinyurl.com/36btcz.

Sue (Cllr Sue Luxton, Ladywell ward)

Tressillian James said...

Sue - thanks for your involvement. I'm in Brockley and was not aware the Dean had already started to do something or I would have joined in.

I received my notice from the Regenter that someone would come around and inspect my windows this week. Being in the conservation area these would be replaced by new wooden sash windows - however my windows are well maintained and with the original Victorian glass -I see them as a feature of the property and will be wanting to retain them. Would like to join the ladywell meeting - if and when possible

to TM - yes I read my leasehold as did my lawyer - and yes we were aware the PFI was on it's way - and our responsibilites. I am happy for the freeholder (in theis case the council) to maintian the porperty - but not happy to undertake work that is not needed.

Tressillian James said...

Also - another aspect of this is that the council are not changing the windows (undertaking repairs) to any property that only contains leaseholders. Only if you are a leaseholder in a property with at least one council tenant will this effect you.

Harly fair and equal treatment of leaseholders

Bobblekin said...

Unfortunately the councils that can influence and shape our communities are generally staffed by people who simply are not up to the job. When the public sector tries to work with the private sector they normally don't get a great deal becuase brighter more capable people end up working in the private rather than the public sector.

If you look at PFI in North London 5 years ago the verdict there was that the councils were at best stichted up by the PFIs and at worst possibley involved in corruption.

Ever thought about how transparent the tendering process is for these contracts? Wouldn't surprise me if people are skimming off teh top someone or they just can not negotiate such big deals.

PS: Which lunatic in the council has decided to deface Tressillian rd with big bright yellow placards warning against pickpockets"?! Out of all the tax I pay Council Tax is the only one I resent because the people spending my money are idiots and I generally get only about 40% of it back in anything resembling "public" services..

bg said...

How are people supposed to afford this?

Tressillian James said...

The question has been raised - and the answer is 'remortgage'. We are supposed to get the benefit of higher property prices. After they have ripped out my original Victorian windows that I have kept in a decent state of order. It's as if there is this perception that we are all wealthy professionals with weekend homes in the country - not ordinary people, trying to pay our mortgage and bills and not rely on the state.

Kate said...

Even setting aside the general problems with PFI, it's totally unsuited to housing because it relies on economies of scale to get anywhere close to value for money, and housing just doesn't offer the contract values necessary for that. Simple refurb jobs like the Brockley PFI are at the low contract-value-per-unit end of the scale.
It's a scandal that the government are persisting with it frankly (though no money has been allocated from the 2007 comprehensive spending review so we can still hope that they've seen sense and will give up).
It's not a coincidence that the 5th PFI allocations round (announced last month) has focussed entirely on extra-care and supported housing projects, where scheme costs are by their nature much higher.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a leaseholder or tennant and don't live in the Brockley PFI area, but I have recently paid to have a large property refurbed...

The Brockley PFI took around 5 years to negotiate, I would have thought before signing the 20 year contract the council would have been informed of Regenter's plans as payments are paid according to targets and performance.

I don't know if plastic is better than wood but I understand in the conservation area wood will be used. I believe leaseholders argue the doors and windows do not need replacing just repair and decoration.

By the way if it is Regenter who decides what is required and standard, that must be full of risks?

As tennants do not pay for the work directly it is more likely leaseholders will raise certain issues.

For example, a total estimate of repairs £14,000 of which £3,500 is "professional fees." Most of these properties are split into two flats so thats £7,000 per property. Should that not be quiered?

Scaffolding seems to be another very 'expensive' item.

The charge to leaseholders is capped at £10,000 but it is taxpayers who'll bridge the gap not Regenter.

If most of the properties are occupied by council tennants, taxpayers could unwittingly pay large sums of money for work either not required or overpriced.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Like I have previously in many posts now, the council does not know how to effectively govern. Dont get me wrong, they will do there best, get legal advice etc... but the quality of their decision making is lacking abit.

Lewisham couuncil has granted many long term contracts to significant 3rd parties, be it road sweeping, road maintainance (conways) or PFI projects. All of them have shown that the council is completely ineffective at holding them to account or getting 'value for money' for residents.

The other thing to bare in mind is that the council are not looking after your interests, they are looking after themselves only. Any contract where costs are passed directly on to residents is a win win situation as for as the council is concerned.

jon s said...

Councils are useless at outsourcing, either through PFI or standard outsourcing contracting. The problem is they have procurement managers (only interested in comoditised cost reduction) not sourcing managers who understand the outsourcing delivery model and holding suppliers to account for service delivery.

The simplest solution for building works - outsource a managed services agreement to Atkins, CBRE or BLS. Several councils can club together to operate a comoditised agreement and shared service centre.

Kate said...

The reason why, despite the cost and hassle, that councils go for PFI (in housing at least) is because the government offers funding (PFI credits) for works undertaken through PFI which it does not offer for other forms of contract.
Councils which have retained all or part of their housing stock (either willingly or by losing a transfer ballot) and have to meet the decent homes standard across those properties in most cases simply can't afford to pay for the necessary works to be done. The only options that bring in extra finance are an arms-length management organisation (which needs to be inspected by the Audit Commission and given a 2-star or above rating before they can apply for DCLG funds) or PFI, which requires the council to apply to the DCLG and spend several years in contract negotiations before it finds out whether Whitehall will give it the money to sign the contracts with the refurb team.

It is worth noting that the decent homes standard is a Whitehall-imposed target which all social housing stock is supposed to meet by 2010.

Therefore local councils are almost entirely in this position because of Whitehall's standards and massively over-complicated funding systems.

You can argue that Whitehall wouldn't have needed to impose the DHS and develop these funding systems if councils had maintained their housing stock for the past 20-30 years, of course. Which is a fair point, albeit it takes us into the hoary old argument about under-funding of local govermnent in the Tory years, particularly in Labour strongholds.

jon s said...

@Kate

Agree most local government outsourcing through a PFI is to meet new central government standards avioding unfunded mandates; this is as true for ICT as it is for Building Services.

I don't see a problem with the PFI concept per se, it is how they are implemented and managed I have issues with.

The sad truth is most local authorities (and a few central government departments) lack the expertise to negotiate and implement decent contracts, where additional works "call off services" are effectively regulated. Also they sign the PFI without building the retained governance necessary to manage such a contract.

In fact, the most satisfying part of my job is building retained governance functions and holding suppliers to account.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

"It is worth noting that the decent homes standard is a Whitehall-imposed target which all social housing stock is supposed to meet by 2010."

This is actually a fall out from new EU legislation, not entirely the UK gonvernments fault.

Hugh said...

I called LBC some time ago asking whether they ever sell of freeholds of the large houses round here to private buyers. The response, in short, was N F W.

You see, you need to be on hand-outs to get on that track.

max said...

These PFIs are supposed to bring the benefits of private practices to the public sector, it looks instead that the other way round is what's happening and through partnership with the public sector entire private companies become sovietic!

Marisa said...

The Leasehold Advice Line which Sue mentions above is an invaluable source of advice. They know soooooo much more than any solicitor who specialises on the subject. I was advising my solicitor based on advice I was receiving from the Leasehold Advice Line. Sue mentions their website, here is also their number 020 7374 5380. The best thing is that it's totally free!

patrick1971 said...

This has just happened in my street as well; perfectly serviceable wooden windows, which only needed a lick of paint, replaced by uPVC, allegedly on environmental grounds as it'll make heating more efficient! Yes, and create a huge amount of unnecessary landfill as well. Fortunately I'm a freeholder, but I would have been pretty aggrieved at stumping up cash for such an ugly, unnecessary piece of work.

Tressillian James said...

"It is worth noting that the decent homes standard is a Whitehall-imposed target which all social housing stock is supposed to meet by 2010."

Fine - but my part of the house is not social housing - and I've put time, money and effort into its upkeep - unlike the other part of the house run by the council.

All this does is now make me wary of moving into a place with council tenants - and I feel sad about that...

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

You should move to the west side, the sun always shines west of the station.....

Kate said...

James - I completely understand where you're coming from, I've heard a lot of horror stories from council leaseholders. My specialist subject is housing (can you tell?!)and to be frank, I would never buy a council leasehold. There is always an element of lack of control when you're a leaseholder, but having the council as your freeholder is a whole different ball-game and maintenance/repair costs are the perfect example.
All I can advise is, asap, get in touch with your local leaseholders' group (and if there isn't one, set one up), and contact the national leaseholders' groups such as the helpline Marisa mentioned. Just about the only thing that can budge councils' housing departments is collective action, in my experience. And even then it takes a lot of stress, hassle and bureaucracy.
Sorry to sound so negative by the way! I suppose I only hear the bad side of things, the majority of people who never have a problem don't come to my attention ...

Anonymous said...

Originally the target date for completing the Decent Homes Scheme was 2010. In a letter to the Mercury the Cabinet Member for Housing points out it will not be completed before 2012.

Even that deadline may not be met. In The Mayor's budget report it says the earliest Lewisham Homes (ALMO) can get 2 stars and therefore funding for Decent Homes is 2010. As this is currently a 4 year programme it will not be completed by 2014.

In her letter the Cabinet Member mentions the Brockley PFI, presumably as a good example of
improving housing.

I don't understand why the council is proud of having provided a housing service so bad thousands of tenants have chosen to get shot of the council and voted for stock transfer.

Anonymous said...

In a recent answer at full council it was said properties within the Lewisham ALMO should be on a minimum 8 year cycle of external decoration but currently it is 15 years.

Would there a clause in the lease and tenants agreement could residents take action for breach of contract or something?

Tamsin said...

Concerned by Tresillian James' reference to his Victorian glass - it would be really sad if that was wantonly destroyed. Manufacturing is different now and with modern glass you don't get the same magic (or alternatively, I suppose, incredibly irritating) ripple effect.

Speaking to a picture framer a little while back - sheets of Victorian glass are actually quite sought after and valuable. I wonder if the Council and their farmed out contractors know that...

Kate said...

Anon - I doubt that the council would have put a clause into any documentation that constituted a legal commitment, but I think that tenants involved in ALMOs and transfers are likely to increasingly turn to legal action to attempt to force councils to uphold promises they have made.
Here's an example of one ongoing case along those lines:
http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/article/?id=1449848

Headhunter said...

Tamsin - simple Victorian house bricks are also quite valuable. We had to replace a wall between out house and the next about a year ago, and to replace it with original Victorian bricks basically quadrupled the cost, so I'm afraid we went for antique look modern ones

Anonymous said...

Kate:
Thank you for the link interestingly when Lewisham Council sold Aragon Tower at Deptford they said about £4m from the sale would be used for housing in that area.

Last year behind closed doors the Mayor agreed an alternative use for the money, what and why hasn't been made public.


It's not as if loans re-housing are new to the council. Back in 1986 Hyde Housing took out a 50 year loan on behalf of the council and leased back properties to the council for only 20 years.

In October 2006 because the council was liable for the loan it was recommended the council take over the freehold of the properties.

In the report the report to the Mayor it said it will cost £1.8m a year. I don't understand if repayments of the loan were being made how it grew to £28m.

Oh it would be fascinating to know who the private lender is/was.

From the council report...

In 1986 the Council entered into a complex deal with Hyde Housing Association and a private lender. The lender lent £13.5m to Hyde to purchase and re-develop the former St John’s hospital site. The Council guaranteed the loan.

The loan is index-linked. The estimated outstanding balance of the loan at December 2006 is £28m.

Anonymous said...

Having spoken to Regenter their attitude seemed to be, we have an agreement with the council and we're not doing anything illegal.

The council replaced the roof on one of the Algiers Road properties in 2006, yet Regenter have put in a sizeable estimate for roof work.

Another property recently fitted uPVC windows at the rear but Regenter have applied to replace all the windows of the property.

Anonymous said...

The Mercury (page 18) carries a letter from some Algier Road leaseholders regarding Brockely PFI.

They ask why Regenter and Higgins are not working with the council's conservation officer to retain was is good.

They claim the work planned is unnecessary, is not based on a detailed survey and breaks the terms of their leases.

Meanwhile it is also reported Leaseholders on the Meadows Estate at Downham claim they are being charged far to much for work being carried out under the Decent Homes scheme.

Some have seen estimates of £10,000 increase to £23,000, they also face a 28% management fee.

The leaseholders are taking their case to a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal in April.

Tressillian James said...

Just had the guy from Higgins here to assess my property for works. He thought the property was sound and would only need the windows changed for the new double glazed ones.

When I mentioned wanting to retain my original glass - he said that 'the windows in the conservation area where still up for discussion with the council' - but the council were pushing for the change due to the decent homes standard.

I suggest leaseholders contact their councillor so our point of view is represented - especially if this point has not been finalised.

Headhunter said...

Surely in the conservation area if they insist on double glazing it would have to be wood framed rather than uPVC? If not the council is completely flying in the face of its own regulations and advice re the conservation area!

anon.e.mouse said...

This is outrageous!!!

I am a leaseholder of a period conversion on Breakspears road. I am aware of the PFI but haven't received any notification of works or the section 20 document that others have mentioned.

Not really sure what I should do?

There is absolutely no way I will accept the replacement of my beautiful sash windows - particularly as they are in good condition and therefore it would be totally unnecessary work, as well as being incredibly ugly.

Surely this is totally against the rules and regulations of a conservation area?

Headhunter said...

Are you sure you're a council leaseholder? Does the council own the freehold for your building? If not it doesn't affect you

Anonymous said...

Yes, Lewisham council owns the freehold of my flat. It's a period conversion made up of 2 flats - the other is occupied by a council tenant and I am a leaseholder. I haven't heard anything at all from Regenter B3 yet but Tressilian James' notification has worried me greatly!

anon.e.mouse said...

Oops, that last comment was from me.

Lady said...

can you buy the freehold quick?
are you sure your other leaseholder is a council tenant? if they have bought their lease then they are a leaseholder and you can arrange with them to buy the freehold from the council or you can buy it yourself and be the sole freeholder.

and to tm - i'm surprised when the council does anything about these properties it has a duty to care for under the lease, even correctly directing my call when i want to talk about a problem i have is a miracle, let alone coming round to fix it

Brockley Kate said...

Just a note - if anonymous (17 March 16.28) isn't Max and if they are still interested, I have an answer for you about the Hyde/council deal. Drop me a line if you want the info. My email address is on my blog (click on my name and you'll end up there).

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