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Monday 8 August
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We’ve put together the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve had from Packington customers. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please email us at EWS@hyde-housing.co.uk.

  1. External wall inspections
  2. Waking watch
  3. Fire alarm systems
  4. Remedial works
  5. Additional questions
  6. Communicating with residents

1. External wall inspections

Why did you carry out external wall inspections across the Packington estate in December 2020 and January 2021?

We challenged some of the findings of previous external wall inspections carried out in 2020 and wanted to get a second opinion. We commissioned another of our consultants, PRP, to carry out further inspections, which were paid for by Hyde.

Why haven't you shared the external wall inspection reports with residents?

We’re sorry we can’t share all the details of the inspections with you. We’re not trying to hide anything, it’s simply that we want to have a better understanding of the full extent of these complex issues, and what needs to be done about them, and to agree a way forward with Rydon, who originally built the blocks.

Please be assured that we’re working as quickly as we can, and a lack of detail from us doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made.

We also need to be very careful that we don’t share anything that could potentially compromise any future claims we may make against Rydon, should our negotiations be unsuccessful.

We know, from dealing with other contractors over fire safety defects, that claims are often vigorously defended on a number of different levels, so we need to ensure we take the right steps to maximise our chances of reaching an agreement. This includes considering carefully what information is shared with customers – and therefore with the contractor – and when.

Can you give us more details about the issues you've found? 

We shared some details and photographs on the issues we’ve found, at the residents’ meeting on 25 March. The inspections revealed some common issues across the estate. So while most of the external wall systems provide adequate protection against fire, there are some areas of concern. Primarily, these are missing or poorly installed fire barriers and insulation. Plus, some materials used do not appear to match those in the construction plans.

We’d like to re-emphasise that the cladding installed on the Packington estate is not the same as that used on the Grenfell Tower.

These issues are unrelated to those at Grenfell and are nothing to do with the age of the buildings, but whether or not they were built to the Building Regulations and fire safety standards at the time and whether they were built according to the design, using materials that were specified.

Were these EWS1 assessments?

No they weren’t. An EWS1 assessment looks solely at the external wall system. Our external wall inspections feed into an overall assessment of fire risk – taking all layers of protection in a building into account (from the external walls, to compartmentation and all the way to fire extinguishers and signage).

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Can I have an EWS1 form for my building and how much will it cost?

While all of the buildings on the Packington Estate, with the exception of 2, 4, 34 and 36 Dame Street, will need an EWS1 form (following guidance from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors), we can’t arrange for EWS1 assessments until remedial work is finished (so we can be sure the building will pass). The cost of the EWS1 assessment will be passed onto leaseholders, in accordance with their lease agreements.

As you may be aware, there is a severe shortage of EWS1 assessors. We’re currently procuring new assessors and you should have had a ‘Section 20’ letter in January to let you know we’ve started formal consultation with customers.

As a result, we don’t know yet how much an EWS1 assessment will cost (it will likely depend on the size and complexity of a building) but our formal procurement process will ensure assessors will meet the technical requirements of the service and deliver value for money at market rates.

If you want to find out more about the Section 20 process, please visit our Section 20 page.

Who's advising you on fire safety? 

Savills is our fire expert, which supports our internal fire safety team and also provides waking watch services. PRP carried out the external wall inspections and TriFire is our fire consultant, which is assessing PRP’s reports and checking Rydon’s proposals for remedial works adequately address all of the issues we’ve found. All these consultants are working for Hyde.

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2. Waking watch

Why did you put a waking watch in place across Packington?

Although we’re satisfied that everyone is safe, the issues we’ve identified mean the level of risk has increased across all buildings on the estate. Following the advice of our fire experts and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) guidance, the best way to ensure everyone’s safety was to change the evacuation strategies of every building from ‘stay put’ to ‘simultaneous evacuation’. This change must be supported by a waking watch, which coordinates the evacuation and helps the most vulnerable residents leave their home in the event of a fire.

What waking watch is in place at Packington?

A ‘roaming’ waking watch of eight fire wardens has been working across the Packington estate since 5pm on 12 February 2021 and every building’s evacuation strategy has changed from ‘stay put’ to ‘simultaneous evacuation’. The three fire wardens previously patrolling 11-16 Canalside will become part of the roaming waking watch team. The waking watch will be in place until temporary fire alarms are installed across the estate.

How was the size of the waking watch decided?

The number of fire marshals is dictated by the layout of the estate, the number and size of buildings and the number of individual homes and the level of risk. This is based on the waking watch provider Savill’s assessment of the findings of PRP’s external wall inspections. Wardens are required 24/7 and the waking watch can’t be reduced during daytime or at weekends.

Savills didn’t carry out the external wall inspections and employs the wardens directly. Hyde doesn’t receive any income from putting in a waking watch.

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Did you consult with the fire brigade before putting the waking watch in place?

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) doesn’t advise us on what we should do in the event of changing the evacuation strategy of buildings and putting a waking watch in place. We’ve formally discussed what we’re doing with LFB at every step of the way, which includes having a ‘roaming’ waking watch across the Packington estate, and it has agreed with our approach.

We’re expected to follow the NFCC guidance, which is enforced by fire authorities across the UK. If we don’t follow the guidance it could result in enforcement action by the London Fire Brigade.

The NFCC advises that temporary fire alarm systems can be installed instead of a waking watch; which is what we are doing at Packington.

Can you give a breakdown of the waking watch costs?

The waking watch costs cover the wardens providing 24/7 safety cover, welfare facilities, equipment, insurance and a 24-hour monitoring service. Costs are based on the level of risk, the size, layout and number of buildings and homes, and are at rates agreed with Savills, in line with market rates.

Savills was appointed through a procurement process that considered the level of service, cost (considering market rates) and value for money of the bids.

Are residents going to have to pay for the waking watch?

We believe waking watch costs should be paid for by Rydon and we’re pursuing this. We won’t ask you to pay for anything until we’ve exhausted all other options.

We can’t tell you how much you will have to pay just yet, while we continue to discuss things with Rydon. We’re also working out the best way to ensure costs are shared fairly across the estate (which will be different from how we normally handle building and estate costs).

If we do have to pass on the costs, we’ll provide a breakdown of these to you. Under the terms of your lease, if you have to contribute to these costs, they will be added to the year-end service charge statement, that you’ll receive in September.

We’re still working through how these costs (if they’re recharged) will be split among residents, so we can make sure we’re as fair as possible. We won’t know this until the fire alarm installation is finished, we’ve re-assessed the fire safety risk and looked at how we can reduce the waking watch.

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Have you applied for the Waking Watch Relief Fund to cover costs of the waking watch?

Despite its name, the Government’s Waking Watch Relief Fund doesn’t cover the cost of waking watches, it only covers the installation of temporary fire alarm systems in buildings more than 17.7m high. We’re applying to the fund for the installation of the fire alarms.

We did apply for the Waking Watch Relief Fund before the 14 March 2021 deadline for social housing providers – it’s worth remembering that the Fund only provides funding for installing temporary fire alarm systems.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is administering the fund, has told us we were unsuccessful in our application. This is because we haven’t billed you yet for the waking watch; even though we have written to you that we may have to pass on the costs (which we provided as evidence).

The situation we find ourselves in is complicated: any costs passed onto residents would be done via the service charges and, under the social housing rules and regulations, we can’t change these until we’re in the next financial year, which starts on 1 April 2021. This means that, if we are going to have to pass charges on, we wouldn’t bill you until later in the year.

Obviously we're extremely disappointed about the decision and we feel we have a strong argument to appeal, which we are doing and we’ll keep you updated.

How and when will you reduce the waking watch?

Detectors have to be installed in every home in a building, before we can change the evacuation strategy (and reduce the waking watch), so we comply with fire safety guidance. We understand the potential financial implications of this decision but we must put safety first.

Once these are up and running, we’ll review what waking watch is needed according to NFCC guidance. We’ll look to reduce the number of wardens in phases during installation, when it’s safe to do so.

At this stage, we can’t give exact details of how and when we can reduce the waking watch (and how we’re proposing to spilt the costs) but we’ll give you these as soon as we can. We’ll still need to have some waking watch presence to help vulnerable residents evacuate in the event of a fire (as the evacuation strategy will still be ‘simultaneous evacuation’.

It’s the residents’ responsibility to tell us if there is anyone in their household that may need help. If you haven’t already done so, please contact us at ResidentFireSafety@hyde-housing.co.uk and we can complete a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) for them.

Can we be involved in selecting waking watch providers in the future?

You should have received a ‘Section 20’ letter in the past couple of weeks, letting you know that we’re asking companies to bid to become our waking watch providers for all the buildings we own and manage, and asking you for your observations on this proposal (details on how to do this are in the letter).

This will be a framework agreement lasting four years – that doesn’t mean a waking watch will be in place for four years, it’s just how long our agreement with providers will run. This procurement process won’t have finished before we’ve removed the waking watch from Packington, so we won’t be changing who’s providing the wardens.

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3. Fire alarm systems

When will the temporary fire alarm systems be installed?

We’re installing temporary fire alarms in every building on the Packington estate between now and the end of June (please note this schedule could change, depending on COVID restrictions and access to individual homes). Open the outline programme (PDF, 117KB).

Once these are up and running, we’ll review what waking watch is needed according to NFCC guidance. We’ll look to reduce the number of wardens in phases during installation, when it’s safe to do so.

At this early stage, we can’t give exact details of how and when we can reduce the waking watch (and how we’re proposing to spilt the costs) but we’ll give you these as soon as we can.

Who’s installing the fire alarms?

Fire alarm installation will be carried out by our contractor Alphatrack and coordinated by our Fire Safety Team.

This will include installing detectors in communal areas and in every room with an external wall (which may mean multiple detectors in some homes). These will be heat detectors, so should not be activated by cooking etc.

Alphatrack staff will be taking appropriate COVID precautions, such as wearing PPE, wiping down work areas and social distancing, when working in homes. If, after booking an appointment, you have to self-isolate, then please contact Alphatrack to reschedule.

Please note that you won’t be able to book an appointment to arrange a visit through the Fire Safety Team, that will be handled by Alphatrack, who will write to you ahead of installation to let you know how to book an appointment.

What can I do to help speed up the process?

It’s crucial that everyone lets the engineers into their homes to install the detectors, so we can ensure the fire alarm system does its job properly. We can’t reduce or remove the waking watch until this work is completed, so we’d appreciate it if you could check with your neighbours that they have made an appointment and that they’ve had a visit.

We’ll do everything we can to get this work done as quickly as possible, to minimise any potential costs. And we’ll consider all options when dealing with gaining access to properties (including those that are empty), which may involve taking legal action to force entry.

Are you going to apply for funding from the Waking Watch Relief Fund to cover the costs of the fire alarms?

The Government’s Waking Watch Relief Fund only provides funding for installing temporary fire alarm systems in buildings more than 17.7m high. 

We did apply for the Waking Watch Relief Fund before the 14 March 2021 deadline for social housing providers. Unfortunately, as explained above, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is administering the fund, has told us we were unsuccessful in our application.

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4. Remedial works

What remedial work is needed at Packington?

Our consultant TriFire is reviewing Rydon’s proposals for remedial works to check they adequately address all of the issues and we’ll share the work plan and outline programme as soon as they are finalised. Please note that Rydon has not being paid to develop its proposal.

Work will be carried out to remedy defects that didn’t meet specification or the Building Regulations in force at the time of construction, which would be Rydon’s responsibility.

At the same time, we’ll identify any building elements that don’t meet current regulations or guidance brought in since the Grenfell tragedy. Rectifying these issues would be classed as ‘betterment’ and would not be Rydon’s responsibility (as it could not have known at the time). We’ll need to make a decision on how to carry out and pay for these works, in consultation with residents.

What options are you looking at to pay for the work?

We’re doing everything we can to avoid passing costs on to residents, so we’ll first look at other ways to fund the safety work. This will include building warranties, insurance or recovering costs from Rydon. We’re also looking into government grants and other funding schemes, like the Building Safety Fund, to help with the costs.

We won’t ask residents to pay for anything until we’ve exhausted all other options. However, under the terms of your lease, you are responsible for contributing financially to the cost of any remedial work to your building.

If we do need to pass on some of the costs, we will consult with you formally in advance, using a Section 20 notice.

A Section 20 notice is the start of a consultation process, where you will be provided with all the relevant information (type of works or service, reason for them being carried out, anticipated costs) and given the opportunity to give us your opinions on the planned works and costs.

You can find out more on the process on our Section 20 page.

How are discussions with Rydon progressing?

Our discussions are going well and Rydon is willing to help fix any problems. However, these are contractual negotiations that, for now, are confidential. We will, of course, share the outcomes with you, once discussions have concluded and we’ve agreed a programme of work.

What happens if Rydon refuses to carry out the work?

We’ll take legal action if Rydon refuses to carry out the remedial work. In that case, we’ll have to find another contractor to carry out the work, which will take time. That’s why all our focus is on working with Rydon to come to an agreement.

Can we refuse to have the work done?

We don’t need your permission to do building safety work – we have to decide what work needs doing and how we do it. And we may legally have to do the work in a certain way, depending on Government guidance. But we’ll give you all the details in plenty of time and answer all your questions before work starts.

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5. Additional questions

Is my building insurance premium going to go up?

We have a three-year agreement (with an option to extend for a further year) with Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers across all our properties, which started in April 2019. Our premium (a proportion of which is passed onto leaseholders) is fixed each year, as long as we don’t exceed our claims limit in the previous year. We haven’t gone over this limit in the past two years.

I want to move but can’t because of the current situation - will you buy my flat from me?

We won’t be buying flats from leaseholders and shared owners. We’re a not-for-profit organisation and charity, providing homes for people on the lowest incomes. And one of our main aims, and our social purpose, is to build more affordable homes.

With that in mind, it would be extremely challenging for us buy back flats from homeowners. And, as a charity, we have to follow the rules about how we use charitable funds (money and grants we receive to do something specific).

6. Communicating with residents

How will you communicate with residents going forward?

We have been emailing weekly updates to Packington residents since December and will continue to do so (if you aren’t receiving these, please email us at EWS@hyde-housing.co.uk and we’ll add you to the distribution list). We’ll also be updating the Packington building safety page with the latest news about progress and the answers to frequently asked questions.

Of course, when there’s an issue affecting residents of an individual building, it’s only right they are told first, so we’ll communicate with them directly. We’ll update everyone else after that.

Will you be holding resident meetings?

We’ll hold regular virtual resident meetings via Zoom, that everyone is free to join. As the issues are now Packington-wide, we won’t hold separate meetings for individual buildings. We’ll post the outline agendas on the Packington page in advance of these meetings, so you can choose to join or not. At the moment, these are weekly but as we often don’t have much to update you with each week, we’re proposing to hold these every month from now on.

Building Safety Fund application

We’re still waiting for a decision on the outcome of our Building Safety Fund application for 11-16 Canalside. We continue to meet with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities but decisions continue to be delayed due to volume of applications. We’re sorry but this means we still can’t tell you when we’ll find out if we’ve been successful and, if we are, how much funding we’ll receive. We’ll update you as soon as we know more.

Scaffolding

You asked when you will know full details of the works and scaffolding programme. We will arrange a project meeting 2 to 4 weeks before the commencement of each phase and we'll walk you through each item in detail. 

 You've also asked specific questions about the scaffolding to the canal towpath side of 9 Canalside Square:

 Phase 1 will be fixed scaffolding 

  • Phase 4, block U1 will be fixed scaffolding
  • Canalside towpath will be fixed scaffolding - this won't have a ground floor lift and will have removal able access 
  • We'll ask Rydon to confirm all the security arrangements for scaffolding at the phased kick off meetings.

Fire alarm works

Contractors have removed unused wiring for the fire alarm system and ‘made good’ the affected areas. We originally planned to use this wiring to connect the fire alarm systems across blocks, but we can do this using remote monitoring, so it’s no longer needed. We apologise for the delay in removing the cabling.

Waking watch and vulnerable residents

We’ve had a number of questions about vulnerable residents and Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs). It’s residents’ responsibility to inform us if anyone in their household requires help evacuating their building in the event of an emergency. We complete a PEEP for each vulnerable resident based on this information.

We put up posters in each block, and sent letters to all Packington residents on 2 June 2021, asking them to contact us if they, or a member of their household, had any vulnerabilities. We also contacted customers that had already told us they were vulnerable, to check if they needed a PEEP.


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