Month: February 2013

Summary of February 2013 Board Meeting

Communal heating & hot water

Niall Carey, the lawyer acting for Ashworth Mansions Ltd has produced a draft application for the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) to consider. This is the body that needs to grant permission for us to vary the leases to remove the obligation to provide heating & hot water. Once accomplished, we can then manage the move to independent boilers.

The draft was agreed with minor changes along with a covering letter. This will be sent to the flat owners forewarning them.

It is unlikely that the LVT process will reach a conclusion before the Spring and it was agreed to revise the target date for switch-over to Summer 2014.

The overwhelming majority of flat owners support the move to independent heating and we have recently received backing from Freshwater, the former freeholder, that still owns a number of flats. We know of only one flat owner likely to object.

It was agreed to ask Peter Ellis, the consultant engineer who produced the initial report, to prepare a plan and brief specification to help flat owners understand their options.

Major works

We have only undertaken two of the four phases of refurbishment begun in 2010.  Phase three (rear of Elgin Avenue blocks) had been rescheduled for Spring 2013. However, we have some unexpected, emergency work (see below) to undertake which means that we may not have quite have enough money in our budget to complete Phase three in the current financial year to end September 2013.

The board looked at the options; including to raise additional money from flat owners this year or to proceed with Phase 3 regardless, knowing that, if there was an over-run on the emergency project, finances could become very tight. In the end, we decided (not unanimously) to replan Phase three so that it begins late Summer 2013 and runs into the 13/14 financial year.

The emergency work is the replacement of some of the link bridges connecting the front doors with the street. A number are badly rusted, causing water to enter and cascade over the mains electricity and gas heads. These will need to be relocated and kfh will be writing to flat owners with a short questionnaire so that UK Power Networks can install the correct capacity to meet our future demands. It is thought that the total works will be c.£100K but there is enough uncertainty to make budgeting for Phase 3 difficult.

The good news is that our insurance claim for reconstruction of the collapsed lintels in blocks 6/7 has been paid at £123K less a £10K excess. This was not a surprise but it has been frustrating that the whole process has taken the best part of a year. The insurance company has asked for a survey of the drains and a trial hole.

Repairs

It was agreed to go ahead with repainting the internal walls to the blocks this spring and to clean the carpets. This work is budgeted and kfh were asked to obtain quotes.

We are undertaking damp proof work in one garden flat.

One flat owner on the top floor has complained of a sloping floor. A surveyor has examined this flat and, after a long time spent negotiation access, all the other flats beneath. A report is being prepared but no evidence of generalised movement has yet been found.

Pigeons are becoming a problem on the Grantully side once more. Kfh has a quote for £8.5K to completely pigeon-proof the building. A second quotation was asked for before the board takes a decision.

Gardens

The plane trees will be pollarded on 5 March.

The garden committee has circulated a note for residents.

Kfh hasked the tree surgeons to quote for tidying up the ornamental cherry tree and for completely removing the tree of heaven.

The last year in the garden and plan for 2013

Trees

An expert report was produced in Autumn 2011 to form a basis for future planning to maintain the trees in the estate (Copy report attached). The report was copied to and subsequently discussed with Westminster Council and there were two visits to Ashworth by Barbara Milne, Senior Arboricultural Officer (as Ashworth is in a conservation area, written permission is required from Westminster with respect to all tree works).

2012 tree works

The following tree work was specified and carried out in 2012:

  • Prune out water shoots and thin crossing wood in purple plums in central garden (trees no. 24, 25, 28).
  • Prune and thin Hornbeam (tree no. 32) and Copper Beech (tree no. 35) also raising lower canopy.

Both as specified in the report and subsequently detailed in permissions from Westminster. Work done was approved as to a good standard during the second of the Westminster visits.

2013 work specified

Knuckle pruning of the planes on the Elgin Avenue frontage has been approved and booked in for March.

Further 2013 proposed

Ornamental cherry at SW corner (Tree no. 36)

This tree is rather out of shape and hasn’t been pruned for some time. It’s only attractive in spring when it is in blossom (for approx. two weeks). It was proposed to remove this tree and replace with a small pyramidal Magnolia Grandiflora “Little Gem”.

On the initial visit Barbara agreed with this plan. However, on the second visit she took a different view – that the current tree should just be pruned back. This should be done in the summer months and it is currently proposed to apply for permission to do that in 2013 and reconsider the plan to replace in a subsequent year.

Other works considered and discussed with Westminster

Note: Ashworth residents should be consulted before applying for permission to carry out any of these possible tree works as they include removal (and replacement) of trees.

1. Tree of heaven (Tree no.19) (in SE corner, next to Boiler Room entrance)

This tree is out of shape and has outgrown its position between two other trees. In addition it overhangs the pavement substantially and a large branch broke off and fell onto the pavement during the summer, narrowly missing parked cars.

Barbara verbally agreed that it would be sensible to remove this tree. It is proposed that we apply for formal permission to remove the tree in 2013/4.

2. Silver Maple in SE corner (tree no. 21) (next to entry to the boiler room). This has outgrown its current position (although still not at full size) and was not well pruned back in its early life. The proposal is to remove the tree and replant with another Acer with a good autumn leaf colour and a smaller mature height/spread.

3. Silver Maple in grass on North side (tree no. 34) (opposite to Hornbeam). This has outgrown the current position (although still not at full size) and was very badly pruned in its early life. The proposal is to remove the tree and replant with another Acer with a good autumn leaf colour and a smaller mature height/spread.

4. Laburnum in NW corner

This tree currently has a split trunk and whilst it is considered safe at the moment replacement needs to be considered and it is proposed that we replace in 2014 or 2015.

Elgin Avenue frontage gardens

Central area – blocks 2/3/4

In the past year we have cleared and replanted the beds to either side of the main entrances with white rose Rosa Winchester Cathedral.

These beds are edged with low growing Lavender “Hidcote”

The roses are interplanted with Narcissus “Thalia” for spring
http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/l290/narcissus-thalia.aspx

The grassed areas along side the Cotoneaster (pruned to a “cloud” shape) were re-turfed and other lawn areas seeded and aerated.

In 2013 the turfed areas will be further improved and seeded. Unfortunately, some residents and passers-by allow their dogs to pee on the grassed areas, creating brown spots. As far as possible the damaged areas will be repaired.

It is proposed during 2013 to plant two yew cones approximately 125cm high in the approach areas in front of block entrances 2 and 4 and to plant a matching yew ball approx. 1 meter in diameter opposite the entrance to block 3. Security devices below soil will be used to reduce the possibility of these being stolen!

Side beds blocks 1/5

The plants in these recently replanted areas are settling down well and starting to put on growth. Some plants may need to be re-sited and few extra plants added.

More bulbs were planted in the autumn, principally Narcissus W P Milner
http://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_bulbs/daffodils/kitchengarden/cutting-flowers/ivories-and-whites/narcissus-w.p.-milner/classid.2000014401/

Central Gardens

More spring bulbs were planted in the garden during the autumn and snowdrop bulbs were divided and replanted.

The grass to the West end of the garden was rotavated to improve drainage, top-dressed and reseeded. This was partially successful in regenerating this area, although the poor weather conditions together with the amount of shade thrown by the beech didn’t help. Now that the Beech canopy has been reduced, further attempts will be made in 2013 to get the grass growing better in this area.

In addition to the general work of spreading leaf mould from the compost bins, pruning of shrubs, planting of some new shrubs and ground cover plants, a new bed was created and planted in the NW corner to utilize a rather unattractive area and balance up the garden at that end. All of the plants have taken well.

The bed underneath the Copper Beech has been dug and expanded into the areas of grass which were unable to grow due to the shade from the beech. More plants will be added here in 2013.

The bed on the north side of the garden containing the large Magnolia has been rather neglected in the last few years and will be rejuvenated in 2013.

Grantully Road gardens

These are looking rather neglected at the moment, as it was not possible effectively to work on them during the major works period and the later works, which ran up to the end of the year. There are still works outstanding which makes it difficult to know when the area will be free to work on properly.

It’s proposed that the Grantully garden be completely replanted with a scheme more suited to the renovated façade. The proposal is for half standard “lollipop” plants along the whole length (holly or bay tree) approximately 5 ft. tall under planted with a similar hedge to the height of the wall. A visual will be produce for circulation to resident together with a request for other ideas/preferences.

Gardeners

There have been a number of incidences of the gardeners arriving late, not at all on appointed days, changing visits etc. and although reasons have always been forthcoming it does not give the impression of “customer service”. Nurture does have a lot of customers and it may be that we are regarded as ‘just another site’. On the other had, we do have continuity of staff coming on site which builds some sort of loyalty.

There have also been a number of issues on the cutting of the grass and whether the equipment used is sufficiently maintained to give the quality of cut required.

It is recommended that we monitor the situation in 2013 rather than seek new tenders at this point.

John Sutcliffe

Jan 2013

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