Karen Buck MP
Tel. 020 8968 7999
Fax. 020 8960 0150
16 May 2014
I recently met again with senior representatives from Grainger PLC, the property company now running Dibdin House. I am writing to you now to keep you updated on the issues we discussed.
For the past year Grainger have maintained that the hall has been closed due to health and safety concerns. This has always struck residents as odd, as the hall has been used for many years without incident and Grainger staff still use it on a daily basis.
Grainger have now conceded that health and safety is not the main reason the hall remains closed. As you may be aware, Grainger are considering plans to convert the hall into flats for private sale. To do this, they would need to get the council to approve a planning application.
However, council planning policy seeks to protect community floorspace. Planning officers at the council have told me:
"In all cases the Council will need to be satisfied that the overall level of social and community provision is improved and there is no demand for an alternative social and community use for the floorspace. All I can assume that if they (Grainger) let the residents use the space even for a temporary period they will have great difficulty in demonstrating to us that there is no demand for this hall."
So it appears that Grainger are keeping the hall closed so that, if and when they do submit a planning application to turn it into private flats, it will appear to the council that there is no demand from residents to use the hall. Grainger admitted as much to me in a letter saying:
"You are correct that we are making plans for the future of the hall and as such we are currently undertaking a feasibility study in relation to converting the hall into residential units. Once we have completed this feasibility study, we would then need to submit our application to the planning department for a final decision to be made. This whole process may take 6-12 months and whilst this process is being undertaken we cannot allow the use of the hall, albeit on a temporary basis, as this may jeopardise any planning decision.
The health and safety report that was commissioned in relation to the hall is an internal document and I can confirm that the works identified were relatively minor. However, despite the relatively minor nature of the works we cannot allow use of the hall for the reason mentioned
I believe it would be a great shame if Dibdin Hall were to close permanently, as it has for many years served as the heart of this community. It is deeply regrettable that Grainger have, in my view, chosen to misuse their power at Dibdin House by keeping the hall closed in order toartificially present to the council a belief that tenants have no desire to use it.
Nevertheless, I do not think this is any reason for residents not to request use of the hall, should
they wish to do so. If written or email copies of such requests were kept, these could
prove very useful when submitting objections to any planning application.
I am sorry to say that I have been receiving credible reports that ASB is once more an increasing
concern at Dibdin House. I am speaking to the Police about what measures can be put in place
before the summer months to nip the problem in the bud.
It is most unhelpful that once more the gates are out of action, allowing anyone to access the
estate. Grainger have explained that water has been allowed to get into the gate panel, breaking
them completely. As the panel is no longer manufactured, Grainger say they will need to replace
the entire system, with resulting delays and additional costs to leaseholders.
I remain in dialogue with Grainger about transfers. While they are now approving medical
transfers in some cases, they continue to have no way of dealing with overcrowding.
Grainger's Director of Corporate Affairs assures me that this issue remains under review across
their entire range of former Church Commission estates and I am liaising with the Housing
Department at the council to see how they could help facilitate transfers for growing families.
Please do let both Grainger and my office know if this issue affects you, as it is very important to
know the scale of the problem.
The External Condition Survey, which Grainger have organised to deal with problems across
Dibdin House such as damp and mould and problems with the windows, should report back in
mid-May. A plan for major works should be drawn up a few months after this. The internal
property condition surveys have been delayed due to staffing issues, so any tenant with a repair
query should call Kier or contact Darin.
I hope this letter serves as a useful update on issues that affect Dibdin House. I will continue to
push Grainger for progress on all of these issues and will be in touch with another update later in
the year. As ever, please do get in touch if you want to discuss how these issues affect you
personally, or if there is anything else you want to raise with me as your MP.
All the best
Karen Buck MP