Correspondence re Redecoration of SEC

For those who are interested, this is my correspondence with Shamsul Alam, Contracts manager for Camden Council who is in charge of the redecoration work in SEC.

I meant to put this up ages ago, so apologies to all for my delay.


Dear Shamsul,

I hope you are well.

I am writing to you with regards to the redecoration of the communal areas of South End Close.

At the initial presentation by Dorothy Gardener of planned works we were told that the walls would be repainted, the grills cleaned and new flooring supplied to cover the stone staircases. We were shown photographs of smooth walls and various colour options. A letter was sent to leaseholders stating that the planned works would cost us each in excess of £2000 (I haven’t got the letter to hand so cannot give the exact amount).

Months later a chap called me (as head of the TRA) to inform me that Dorothy had now left and that he had taken over. I’m not sure whether this was you or not. The chap informed me that Camden no longer planned on putting floor covering down but were looking at ways to clean the stone staircase properly (for the first time in the 27 years I have lived there!) and were trying to figure out how to clean the metal grills. He also informed me that the walls would not be sanded down but would purely be painted over. Please see my blog to read my personal thoughts on this at I really find it hard to believe that the ugly ‘swirl’ patterns will remain all over the walls because, as I was told by the chap, it is ‘too difficult to get the swirls off’. It was Camden’s workers who put the swirls up there in the first place, the last time the communal areas were decorated, and the only reason they did was that they were too lazy to do the job properly. So clearly, with many elements of the task stripped away, this should mean the final bill comes down from £2K+ for leaseholders?

When I was told this news I asked the chap to put it in writing so that I could inform all residents and to re-quote the bill to leaseholders. I also asked him to check with Camden’s billing dept if we were expected to pay this bill at the same time as the huge bill for the water works which took place or if this bill could be paid once that one was complete. I never received anything in writing and haven’t received any answers to my questions.

I would appreciate it if you could please respond in order for me to let everyone know, including the leaseholders.

Kind regards,

Miss Pier Reid


Dear Ms Reid,

Thank you for your e-mail.

It was actually me that spoke to you some weeks ago regarding the Spring Clean works to South End Close.

I read through the notes made by Dorothy following the resident’s consultation meeting held last year and I understand 6 residents including you attended the meeting. The notes from the meeting suggest discussions were centred around the wall colour, feature wall and sample flooring were shown to those who attended the meeting. The consultation was at an early stage of the Spring Clean programme and at this stage no detailed specification had been drawn up. I understand you had suggested that existing concrete flooring would be sufficient if it was professionally machine cleaned with right chemicals. You had also suggested that if we are considering installing the new flooring then a sample staircase should be done first to give residents an opportunity to see what the flooring would be like and if it was suitable for South End Close.

There is no mention in the notes that that the existing wall surfaces will be plastered over to provide a smooth finish to the walls.

In April this year the leaseholders were consulted on the proposed Spring Clean works to the estate. The consultation costs did not allow for new flooring or for the walls to be skimmed over to a smooth finish and as far as I recall we have not received any observations from leaseholders requesting the existing walls to be plastered over and new flooring installed.

I have been investigating if it would be feasible to apply a plaster skim over the existing swirl pattern to provide a smooth finish to the walls. The walls in South End Close have been painted with anti-graffiti paint and it looks the swirl patterns were formed using the anti-graffiti paint system the last time the walls were decorated.  The anti-graffiti finish makes it very difficult to apply skimming plaster over the walls because there is a high risk that the plaster will not adhere to the wall. I have been in touch with the Technical Team at British Gypsum, one of the largest manufacturers of plastering material in the UK and their advice is as far as they are aware there are no products on the market at this time that would allow an wall which has also been treated with anti-graffiti paint to be skimmed over with plaster. If we wanted the walls to have a smooth finish then they would recommend that we mechanically plasterboards to the walls which can then be skim finished with finishing plaster.

Unfortunately it is not feasible to mechanically fix plasterboards to all walls to all 14 staircases within South End Close as this not only be a very costly exercise but it will also be technically challenging. It will reduce the width of the staircase, new skirting’s will need to be installed and it would be tricky to work around the around the existing services and pipes.

With regards to the flooring I have considered the option of installing new vinyl safety flooring instead of cleaning the existing concrete flooring. The costs of cleaning the existing flooring is approximately 1/5 the cost of installing new vinyl flooring and until we carry out a trial staircase we will not know how effective the cleaning would be and if it will make a real difference. Subject to further resident’s consultation, I would like to propose that we install new vinyl flooring to the staircase and the communal areas instead of cleaning the existing concrete floors and would welcome your comments on this.

I look forward to hearing from you with regards to my proposal for the floor. In the meantime if you have any queries please feel free to contact me.

Best wishes

Shamsul Alam
Contracts Manager


Dear Shamsul,

Thank you for your response, although I am mildly irritated that I had to waste time trying to find out who you were and chase you for it.

You are correct in saying that there was no mention of the walls being plastered at the original presentation by Camden, but as we were being shown images of works which had taken place in other estates with beautiful smooth walls, I’m sure you can understand why we presumed we would get the same.

I will refer to my letter to see if new flooring was mentioned for  within the quote for leaseholders. Again they may not have been mention on plastering the walls within the quote, however with the huge expense of this job, I guess we took this as a given. However thanks to Camden’s last choice of decorators deciding that a ‘swirl pattern’ was their particular preference as it meant less work in covering cracks and holes, it looks like SEC is now stuck with the pattern for life! Well done to your decorators…not!

I personally dislike vinyl flooring in communal areas and would prefer Camden to at least try and clean one set of stairs before spending money on purchasing a load of vinyl flooring. I will put this question to those residents who subscribe to my blog and let you know their decision.

Could you also please advice on whether you have spoken to the billing dept as yet?

I would like to publish your email in my blog for everyone’s information. Is this acceptable to you?

Kind regards,

Pier Reid


Dear Ms Reid,

I understand that if residents are shown pictures of work on other estates with walls then people can easily make the assumption that they will get a smooth finish walls. I understand the images that were shown at the meeting were assimilated as we had not started the spring clean works on any estates at the time of the consultation meeting. However, I will take your comments on board and try and ensure that we emphasize to the residents what we can and can’t do on future consultation events so everyone is clear. I even considered applying a special two part primer that we apply prior to coating over anti-graffiti paint finish to ensure the new paint adheres to the substrate. However since the primer is not designed to skimming over walls neither the manufacturers or the contractor will be carrying out he works will guarantee the new plaster will adhere to the wall and will come not off in few years’ time. I simply can’t afford to take the risk if it was a smaller area then it might be different but 14 staircases and entrances I simply can’t afford to get it wrong.

New vinyl flooring was not included in the leaseholders consultation estimates that were sent out earlier this year. However I did allow a provisional sum of £1000 per staircase to allow for the specialist cleaning. If we do decide to go with the new flooring then it’s most likely that we will have to issue an additional notice to the leaseholders for the flooring.

Few months ago I arranged for a specialist concrete restoration company to do a trail cleaning /polishing of an area of concrete step on a another estate in Camden. The contractor was very keen and assured me that they will be able to restore the concrete back to originality and they have had many success. They arrived on site with heavy machinery and used a combination of chemical cleaning followed by specialist diamonds grinders to polish the concrete, I stood and watch them doing it. However despite all their effort the area of the floor that was cleaned/polish although was smooth to touch visually it was difficult to notice any difference from the surrounding area. I am not sure if cleaning the floor will actually make a huge difference. The original flooring goes back to 1920’s when the building was built and as you can imagine there will be years of dirt/grease that has ingrained into the concrete.

I am sorry I have not been able to speak to the Collection Manager regarding the payment options for the Spring Clean works, I tried calling him few times but he was not available. I will write to him this afternoon and will let you know once I hear back from him.

With regards to publishing my previous e-mail in your blog that’s is fine by me.

Best wishes

Shamsul Alam
Contracts Manager

PLEASE NOTE LEASEHOLDERS: I have heard nothing since with regards to payment options for the Spring Clean works.

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