The 25 plus years it took to get to here…
The Dorchester Court Residents’ Association begins
campaigning to have
Dorchester Court renovated
Manaquel Ltd (the landlord) and the DCRA go to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and agree the scope and costs of comprehensive renovation works; to be completed in 2 phases over 2 years, and without any development works.
Phase 1 works begin on the heating and hot water system, lifts and electrics.
Nine years overdue, and nowhere near the original quote, phase 1 works finish.
The DCRA are told phase 2
works will begin ASAP.
The landord starts putting tenants on monthly rolling contracts in anticipation of the proposed development works. Wholesale evicitons are planned, so the blocks can be emptied to make way for contractors.
All of the garage tenants are evicted, including the resident, Dorchester Court gardener and 3 tradesmen who have set up garage workshops. Part of the Dorchester Court community is erased.
Manaquel Ltd commission a report on the eroding structures of Dorchester Court. The Bellamy Wallace report is compiled. Apparently 50+ years of neglect are not the cause of the terrible conditions. Instead an “inherent defect” is suddenly to blame.
In February Manaquel present their plans to develop Dorchester Court by putting eight townhouses on the garage site and 16 flats on top of the eight blocks.
Refuse storage is to be moved out of the garages and 24 Eurobins are to be spread up and down the access roads either side of the estate.
Amenity space for services is to be dramatically reduced. Loss of rooftop communal amenity space is to be lost completely.
In response to Manaquel’s consultation process the DCRA compiled a community questionnaire of it’s own, which was filled out by around 60 residents, and gave us a picture of the real desires, needs and concerns of the community.
2017 to Present Day
The DCRA writes to Manaquel Ltd supporting the proposed renovation works, and expressing its concerns about the development plans.
No written reply is received for almost 6 months.
Meryvn Mandell (Manaquel Ltd) and Daniel Cusack (Property Partners – DC managing agent), invite Iain Perring (DCRA Secretary) and Rupert Ingham (Estate Manager) to an informal meeting to discuss the proposal at Costa Coffee in Brixton.
Iain Perring and Rupert Ingham explain their concerns about over development of the site, in particular the moving of the refuse storage out of the garages.
Mr Mandell asserts that all the garages are to be immediately and completely blocked off. When Mr Ingham questions this plan Mr Cusack threatens to sack him
A metal fence is erected blocking off the first half of the garages, although four garages, housing the estate’s refuse and recycling, and equipment for the maintenance and cleaning personnel, are left accessible.
This move is protested by the DCRA and several leaseholders as a breach of the leases.
The DCRA meets with Cllr Jim Dickson and MP Helen Hayes, and presents its views on the application and the consultation process.
Planning application protocol is discussed at length. Cllr Dickson relays an email from Mr Mandell saying he will “pause and take stock” over his plan to block off the garages.
An employee of Property Partners (DC managing agents) is photographed breaking open and emptying all the garages.
As a result the doors are left hanging open and refuse is strewn across the garage forecourts.
A DC resident calls the police as the derelict garage area is attracting youths in multiple cars who are using the area to urinate and graffiti.
Vandals pour engine oil onto the garage forecourt and attempt to start fires.
The DCRA writes a letter of complaint to Messrs Mandell and Cusack. It objects to the way the consultation process is being handled, and asks for the disarray in the garage area to be rectified.
Mr Cusack responds to the email saying they are speaking with Mr Perring to organise another meeting to hear the DCRA’s views.
He also states they will be blocking off the second half of the garages to rectify the problem (which they created). Later the same day, the second half of the garages are blocked off.
Mervyn Mandell meets with Iain Perring and Ben Archard (DCRA treasurer) at flat 70 Dorchester Court to discuss the plans.
No progress is made.
For the next two months the DCRA campaigns for a meeting with the Manaquel’s design team
Seven months after the initial presentation the first of a number of formal meetings takes place.
Present are the DCRA, Manaquel and its design team, Councillor Jim Dickson and MP Helen Hayes.
Sept 2017 – June 2019
Several meetings are held and changes to the application are discussed.
In brief these were…
Alternative solution to refuse storage
The DCRA designs a bin store to be built into the embankment facing on to Dorchester Drive. Manaquel accepts this idea and incorporates into its pre-application designs.
Ventilation to the flats
The DCRA points out that the building of rooftop extensions will obstruct vents providing necessary ventilation to the flats below. Manaquel accepts this assertion and proposes to reroute the ventilation shafts.
Loss of service amenity space
The DCRA contests the loss of amenity space from the garages (11 in total are used to service the estate) and designs a storage facility, also to be built into the Dorchester Drive embankment. Manaquel accepts this idea but reduces it in size. The DCRA asserts that the revised storage space will be inadequate to requirements.
Unused, service lift shafts
The DCRA expresses concern about the unused, service lift shafts, saying that they present a fire hazard and should be taken out as part of the renovations. Manaquel do not commit to this.
Fight for the Communal
June 2018 – June 2019
After the initial planning presentation the DCRA considers the loss of the communal rooftop spaces to be a real possibility.
As a result they push for a community centre to be included in the application as compensation for the loss.
After numerous refusals from Manaquel an approach is made to Lambeth Planning Dept. to discuss how to put a value on the roof spaces.
Lambeth Planning suggests applying for a Certificate of Lawful Development (existing).
Throughout the summer of 2018 the DCRA compiles evidence to demonstrate the continued and continuous use of the roofs by the residents.
The support is overwhelming. 108 residents sign sworn affidavits detailing how they use, value and enjoy these unique spaces. Photographs are also provided. The application is approved by Lambeth Council.
Manaquel appeal the decision in the courts and are categorically refused, on all 5 counts of their argument.
Three Things Happen
As A Result of The
The DCRA realises it now has a chance of defending the roof spaces
Given the overwhelming support of the residents, the DCRA concludes that this is the right course of action for the association that represents community. The assertion by Manaquel, that they will not financially support a community centre, confirms this position.
Manaquel unsuccessfully appeal the decision in the courts
At the same time they lock off access to the roofs and move the refuse storage out of the garages and on to the service roads, causing fly-tipping to begin around the estate. The vindictive nature of the response acts as a tipping-point for the DCRA.
The DCRA concludes that Manaquel Ltd is not to be trusted with the well-being of the community and the development of the estate.
Without the support of the DCRA, Manaquel put a community room into their planning application.
They do so in order to win favour from the residents for their application to appropriate the court’s communal amenity roof spaces to their own ends.
It does not go down well.
Particularly with the tenants, who know, if the rooftop developments go ahead they would no longer be around to see a community room.