PFI uPVC - the other side of the story

The PFI agreement, which Lewisham Council struck to refurbish Brockley's stock of Council housing has proven to be highly controversial and complex.

This email, which we received from one Council tennant offers an alternative perspective on the consortium's plans to replace old windows with uPVC ones:

I am a Council resident of Syringa House on Wickham Road. The day to day running of our estate was taken over by Pinnacle Housing and the upkeep by Higgins. We have been promised new kitchens, bathrooms and windows as part of a regeneration project on the interiors of our homes and the communal areas.

Well the time has come for the work to commence. We have been given the choice of paint colours, cupboard doors and work surfaces etc and told that soon scaffolding would be going up soon in order for the fitters to fit our brand new shiny UPVC double glazing windows in replacement of the old metal frames which go mouldy not matter how much they are cleaned and painted with moisture resistant paint, that have no locks and warp in the winter. I'm a ground floor resident and on more than one occasion my garden has been showered with glass as there is no adequate means of fixing them open in the warm weather and they slam shut and shatter.

As this was going to happen I have put off decorating a few rooms in my home. So I was very shocked to discover that we will no longer be getting our long promised UPVC double glazing windows but we would be getting a lick of paint and draught excluders. This isn't a problem for all the residents in the Wickham Road Estate just Syringa, Jasmin, Veronica and May Tree House. The reason we have been given for this is that our 4 blocks are part of the Brockley Conservation area and therefore are subject to different planning regulations to the rest of the estate, but there are already lease holder residents in the blocks who have previously been given planning permission for UPVC frames and have had then installed.

Across the road from us is Raymont House (a student halls of residence provided by Goldsmiths University) which a few years ago had a refit and all the windows were replaced with UPVC framed windows, Raymont House is also within the Conservation area.

Surely if this is a conservation area it should be one rule for all. Not picking and choosing as the Planning Dept see fit. Also would it not look better in the Conservation area if all the windows in the council property were uniformed. I also wonder what the Planning Dept are trying to conserve.

We feel that this is grossly unfair especially as this has been dangled in-front of our faces like a carrot.

I have contacted the Planning Dept and they told me that Higgins had been advised that they should use metal frames so that they looked the same as before - they had looked at the windows in the blocks from the outside, I asked if they had been inside the flats to look at the windows to see the damp and mould. They hadn't. I'm unsure if the project has run out of money and this is the easiest way out of a sticky situation but me and a number of residents will not simply accept this after we have been promised it for so long.

We are planning to draw up a petition of all residents effected, take this up with our local MP and Councillors and speaking to the local press. We hope that you will feature us on your blog.