Today, I went deep inside the Camberwell Submarine!

Discussion in 'Brixton' started by editor, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. ringo

    ringo Macaroni cheese controller

    I think of that bit as Angell Town or Myatts Field. The area in the triangle of Brixton Rd / Coldharbour Lane / Camberwell New Road is too big for one ward name. Down by Coldharbour Lane we're happy with Loughborough Junction.

    A lot of people still think of it as a dangerous area, but Angell Town has been completely rebuilt since the days when it was known locally as Gun Town. Similar with Loughborough Junction. Not sure how it is to live in Loughborough Estate itself but the environs have been done up a lot. Flaxman Road and a lot of the other roads full of older housing stock have gradually been done up one house at a time and are now starting to resemble the distinctly gentrified streets surrounding the wonderful Myatts Field Park. I just wish I could afford to live in one of them.
  2. se5

    se5 Well-Known Member

    I think Angell Ward was abolished before the 2002 elections (or maybe earlier) - this area is now Vassall Ward - see map at or Coldharbour Ward (

    I live in the SE5 bit of Vassall Ward and to me its definitely Camberwell!
  3. wtfftw

    wtfftw Well-Known Member

    It's a weird one. Also because the borough borders aren't the same as the postcodes. Some of SE5 is lambeth.

    And then where camberwell new road and brixton road meet - is that oval? :D
  4. Mrs Magpie

    Mrs Magpie On a bit of break...

    Me too. I first came across it in early 1981 when I asked for directions and was told "Keep going past the submarine and then take the first left."
    tim likes this.
  5. se5

    se5 Well-Known Member

    If we were being pedantic I would say that Oval is nothing - the name of a cricket ground and the nearby tube station only - the area around Oval tube station is Kennington or Stockwell but realistically people do refer to "living in Oval" so I guess it is.

    And something like 25% of the SE5 postcode is in Lambeth - its just that its all largely residential and so doesnt register as much as Camberwell town centre etc (Southwark)
  6. wemakeyousoundb

    wemakeyousoundb and calm again

    postcodes and their mysteries
  7. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

  8. nagapie

    nagapie Well-Known Member

    That's where I work.
  9. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

  10. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    *threads merged
  11. cuppa tee

    cuppa tee Well-Known Member

    The billboards had been modified with graffiti from a group called the Crawshay Liberation Front over the weekend with the tagline "no jail for MFN residents"
    its been scrubbed off now, no doubt in preparation for the hordes of potential buyers coming in for Phase Two aka Parkside
  12. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    Damn! I would have liked to have seen those. I loathe those billboards.
  13. SarfLondoner

    SarfLondoner KenDoddsDadsDogsDead.

    What a result.
    editor likes this.
  14. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

  15. ricbake

    ricbake working out how

    Reading that article it looks like who ever wrote it drew most of the words from this Thread.

    Whilst the submarine was being refurbished, they built a temporary boiler house in containers on the corner of Mostyn Road, it feeds the Myatts Field South Estate and some of the pre this development bits of Myatts Field North, put in hundreds of yards of heavily insulated pipe work.
    Ackerman Road was a dual carriage way because it was going to be part of the Brixton Bypass. I understand that the Barrier Block, Southwyck House was to "back on" to the continuation of that Bypass.
    wiskey and editor like this.
  16. CH1

    CH1 "Red Guard"(NLYL)

    Which Brixton bypass would that be?

    The B Ring Road, designed in 1943 but never implemented is the reason for large swathes of south London in Brixton and Camberwell passing into public ownership (and being squatted in some cases). This scheme seems to be the reason for the specific south-facing and apparently bleak north facing aspect of the Barrier Block.
    I can imagine there might well have been a subsequent north-south Brixton bypass which never got finished. Do you, or anybody else haver any more details on this?
  17. ricbake

    ricbake working out how

    Can't find anything more about a North South Brixton Bypass, but Ted Hollamby the Lambeth Borough Architect was responsible for the Barrier Block/Southwyck House, Myatts Field North and the Camberwell Submarine which I think I have also seen somewhere referred to as "HMS Hollamby" .
    CH1 likes this.
  18. stockwelljonny

    stockwelljonny Wait here I have gone to get help

    Interesting piece from Inside Housing about the Camberwell Submarine heating centre and pfi shenanigans.

    The story of the Camberwell Submarine
    Insight 19/02/16 2:58 PM by Keith Cooper
    A private finance initiative deal in south London was meant to retrofit an ageing communal heating system and save tenents money. Keith Cooper investigates what happened next


    The Camberwell Submarine, the concrete chimney of an underground energy centre on a Lambeth housing estate, is aptly nicknamed.

    The periscope-like vent is at the centre of a serious skirmish between the south London local authority and many of its residents.

    The battle is about a most basic resource - heating and hot water - and how it’s supplied to two adjoining estates: Myatts Field South (MFS) and Myatts Field North (MFN), where the submarine sits. The issues arose following a regeneration scheme that has changed the face of the estate. Given that the government is pushing for the large-scale regeneration of the UK’s housing estates, the lessons from Myatts Field will be of relevance to scores more schemes in the coming years. It acts as a clear reminder to landlords that not only do they have to think about tenure and the physical environment, but also how services are procured and provided if they don’t want to end up in hostile dialogue with residents.

    Fuel poverty
    In the case of Myatts Field, Lambeth Council has ended up in a protracted battle with residents, who have criticised its management of the regeneration and say their bills have increased as a result.

    “These properties are not designed for single boilers.”

    Lucy Williams, chair, Myatts Field South TRA

    The south-siders accuse Lambeth of pushing tenants on low and unstable incomes into fuel poverty. Around a third of the 393 households on MFS are resisting having individual boilers installed, after they were disconnected from the energy centre and denied access to the refitted submarine. They are campaigning for their own communal heater but are living on borrowed time. Lambeth plans to switch off their temporary communal supply this summer and is threatening the 119 or so refuseniks with legal action.


    Source: Mike Urban/

    The district heating system boiler at Myatts Field looks like a submarine

    But the council is facing a war on two fronts with tenants on the 477-home MFN and the new ‘Oval Quarter’, a development of 503 private homes being built around MFN. They are all hooked up to the refitted submarine but complain Lambeth has tied them to an onerous deal with energy giant E.ON from which they cannot escape for decades.

    Trouble in the south
    So how did these battles reach boiling point? And what are the lessons for other landlords?

    The trouble on the south is traceable to 2010 and a private finance initiative (PFI) project to regenerate MFN.

    Under the PFI, a consortium called Regenter would replace 305 rundown council and leaseholder homes, do up 172 others and build 187 new ones for sale. It would refit the submarine with a combined heat and power (CHP) plant to supply both estates, say council papers approving the plan in March 2010.

    The refit appeared a welcome benefit of the PFI, as the submarine’s ageing KC1 heater neared the end of its life. While then supplying the south estate, homes on the north had been disconnected and switched to
    individual boilers in the 1990s.

    Lambeth and Regenter duly negotiated with the MFS tenants’ and residents’ association (TRA) to connect the estate to the submarine. A budget of £4.5m was agreed to lay the pipework and replace radiators, according to the TRA’s then chair, Lou Weston. Lambeth and Regenter confirm discussions took place.

    But within months of approving the 2010 plan, Lambeth appeared to rethink its intention to connect MFS to the refitted submarine. Sometime between April and November, the authority asked consultancy, the Brinson Staniland Partnership (BSP), to explore alternatives for MFS.

    The resulting report examined three choices: a dedicated communal heater; individual boilers or a mixture of both. Connection to the submarine was not an option.

    BSP’s conclusion that December infuriated residents. It recommended the option of individual boilers for its “lowest capital cost”, despite describing a dedicated CHP plant as the “most efficient option”.

    In 2011, the final business case (FBC) for the PFI, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, indicates why Lambeth pursued these alternative options at that time. While the original rebuild and refurbishment programme was unchanged, the number of private homes in the PFI was almost trebled from 187 to 503. This left the energy centre without capacity, the FBC says.

    The next year, the south-siders were connected to a temporary heater and disconnected from the submarine, which was handed to Regenter for the refit.


    Source: Mike Urban/

    Inside the ‘submarine’

    By this time, E.ON had been awarded an exclusive contract to refit the submarine and use it to supply gas heating and hot water to MFN for 40 years. This arrangement promisingly pledged “substantial reductions in energy costs”, so says the PFI’s final business case in 2011.

    In 2013, a separate report about MFS heating options, by Astec Consultant Services, also recommended individual boilers, claiming it was “more than likely that most residents will be financially better off” with them.

    Contesting claims
    This claim is strongly contested by the Myatts Field South TRA. Its chair, Lucy Williams, claims correctly that the consultants’ cost calculations do not account for the estate’s draughty physical structure or the considerable heating effect of the communal system pipework.

    “These properties are not designed for single boilers,” Ms Williams says. “When the communal heating is switched off, the whole estate will become like a graveyard. Heating costs are going to escalate.” Lambeth confirms the estate structure and the heating effect of communal pipes are not factored into consultants’ calculations.

    The TRA says tenants will struggle with individual boilers and higher bills after so long on a fixed-rate communal supply. Its concerns are confirmed by several residents.

    Karker Sdqi, a 24-year-old Kurdish refugee from the war-torn Iraqi city of Mosul, who agreed to an individual boiler soon after he moved in, says he never switches the heating on. His monthly bill of around £50 is less than the £56 fixed fee he paid on the communal. But as a chef, picking up ad hoc agency work, he worries about covering increases. “I wear a lot of clothes and use an electric fan. I always worry about how much I am spending. Before, I wasn’t.”

    Sylvia Fulwood, a 91-year-old resident who has lived on the estate since 1981 and whose home is on the communal heater, is worried about switching. She says she “would use all my pension to pay for the heating” if forced to switch to an individual boiler.

    Concerns about fuel poverty are recognised by Lambeth, which is encouraging struggling tenants to seek help. It aims to secure cheaper energy deals for tenants with utility companies. “Court action has been taken as a last resort to enable us to complete the works before the old communal system fails catastrophically,” the spokesperson adds. “Decaying pipework is leaking thousands of litres of water weekly.”

    Lambeth told Inside Housing that in 2014, E.ON “confirmed” its energy centre had the capacity to supply MFS but that this would require “major alterations” and a road closure to lay a new mains. “The benefits would be far outweighed by the substantial costs involved,” he adds. E.ON says it would be “happy to explore” extending the energy centre to MFS.

    The TRA’s Ms Williams says it had not been informed about the possibility of connecting MFS to the submarine in 2014. It has been campaigning for Lambeth to use the £4.5m funding, it says was agreed, to pay for a new permanent communal heater on the MFS estate. Lambeth says there is no “committed resource” agreed under the PFI deal for this purpose.

    High bills
    Meanwhile, on the other side of the estate, a number of tenants on MFN and the Oval Quarter are not happy either after being hooked up to the retrofitted submarine.

    The fact that residents on both the north and south sides are unhappy despite the major work carried out, shows how important effective consultation is to the ultimate success of a scheme.

    Papers seen by Inside Housing reveal the energy plant installed by E.ON has been beset by problems of poor performance and complaints about high and unpredictable bills.

    A 2015 report for the MFN project liaison group, established to keep tabs on the PFI, lists a range of problems from the preceding three months, resulting in a “poor level of service”.
    Gramsci and editor like this.
  19. stockwelljonny

    stockwelljonny Wait here I have gone to get help

    Part 2 -

    Many residents received inaccurately inflated estimated bills because of problems with “automatic meters”, which were meant to beam readings directly to E.ON. Four in 10 were delivering erroneous figures, the report says.
    The problems with automatic meters continued to at least last December, according to a letter by E.ON’s head of community energy, Jeremy Bungey. “We are… unable to guarantee one accurate bill a month,” it states.

    MFN leaseholders and private residents on the Oval Quarter development are also upset about their monthly standing bill of £33 to cover boiler repairs and replacement costs.

    Tenants concerned
    Uzoamaka Okafor, chair of the MFN Residents’ Association and PFI Monitoring Board, told Inside Housing tenants remain fed up with the service: “People are concerned about bills, they are so high and unpredictable. It is supposed to be sustainable energy, it is supposed to be cheaper, but I can’t see it.”

    One tenant, Maria Cifuentes, says she no longer used the E.ON supply for heating, after receiving several monthly estimates in excess of £120. While these were reduced on appeal, she feels more in control of costs by using electric heaters.

    “Many residents have been turning off their heating because they can’t afford the bill.”

    Stuart Hodkinson, lecturer, University of Leeds

    Lambeth responded to the TRA’s petition in February 2015, admitting there was “no opt out” for tenants in the 40-year contract.

    In May, a fact sheet by Regenter suggested why tenants’ bills may appear high. E.ON’s gas tariff is “derived from the average gas tariffs of the big six suppliers”, it states. This average is then “multiplied by 1.25 to account for the efficiency difference” between its CHP and “traditional gas boilers”.

    E.ON told Inside Housing the multiplier was used as an “academic exercise” to compare its prices to the market, not to set them. The average bill across the estate was £580 a year, “compared favourably with the UK average” and was “considerably less” for social tenants as the council contributes towards their charges, a spokesperson added.

    Stuart Hodkinson, a lecturer at the University of Leeds who was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council to investigate the PFI project, says he is sceptical about E.ON’s average bills figure.

    “Many residents have been turning off their heating because they can’t afford the bill,” he adds. “They are being dispossessed of their consumer rights - forced to pay for a system that doesn’t work for them, has been unreliable and from which they cannot escape.”

    An E.ON spokesperson admits to “initial problems” on the estate with billing accuracy. It had apologised to customers and “worked hard to rectify” issues. “We are seeing improvements in service levels,” he adds.

    As the battles on MFN and MFS show, keeping residents warm when they are on low incomes is a serious consideration for social landlords pursuing regeneration plans. How they meet that challenge will be a key test of their commitment to tenants’ well-being.

    Hot under the collar: the troubles with district heating systems
    Ministers’ drive to rebuild scores of ‘sink estates’ runs alongside another to hook eight million homes up to district heating by 2050.

    This big push for district heating systems is not without controversy, however.

    A study of 59 systems by consumer champion Which? last year uncovered “significant dissatisfaction” among consumers. High prices were a widely held concern, the report, Turning up the Heat, found.

    Lack of regulation of heat networks and being unable to switch supplier were cited as major issues.
    Gramsci, snowy_again and editor like this.
  20. Sea Star

    Sea Star Keep back! Devils!

    I used to live in the building that overlooks that submarine thingy. Always wondered what was going on with it? One of my neighbours used to reckon it was full of military equipment for in the event of an occurrence. :hmm:
    T & P likes this.
  21. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    stockwelljonny thanks for posting up inside housing article.

    So the communal heating was transferred to Eon. Am I right that communal heating used to be run by Council? That is not run by private provider? If so I don't understand why Council couldn't keep running it.

    The other thing Im not clear on is CHP. Combined Heat and Power. I did think this was supposed to be the green way forward for local power and energy. So how did it all go wrong?

    From reading the Inside housing article looks to me that the Council offloaded risk of providing heating to private provider. The end result that issues like dealing with fuel poverty are no longer under Council control. Other than giving advice.
  22. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    I cycle by the new build "Oval Quarter" every day. There is one block for sale on shared ownership that is still largely empty. I wonder if the heating problems have been putting people off.
  23. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus



    That's one of the most hateful things I've ever seen in the area. Disgusting.
    Gramsci likes this.
  24. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    Recent article from the Guardian:

    The real cost of regeneration

    Long but worth reading.

    This was a PFI scheme. So unlikely to be done in precisely that way again. PFI were very New Labour. Putting private enterprise together with public authorities. Nu Labour really believed that was the way to go. And in Lambeth still do. See Pop and the Gym libraries.

    The article says that the PFI meant that the Council and private consortium ended up supporting each other. Seeing the residents as a problem to be managed.

    The democratic accountability of the Council by residents was lost. ( Though I do think the article isn't quite right on the good old days of democratic accountability and now. The Council always was top down. At least back in the days of Kate Macintosh they built Council housing. But it's mistake to argue this was resident led development).

    In theory ward Cllrs could have taken up issues. Notice the article makes no reference to Ward Cllrs. Rather telling and not a surprise to those who live in Lambeth. A one party Nu Labour state. Where Ward Cllrs can take the example of Cllr Rachel as what happens to Cllrs who stick up for residents.

    To add. One of the points the article puts forward well is that the outsourcing of ongoing provision and maintenance of services leads to no one being directly accountable.

    The example of Myatts Fields shows on local level weaknesses of the Nu Labour project. The neo liberal outlook that marrying public sector with private enterprise would optimise good social outcomes. There is nothing rarified or obscure about saying this. It's on local issues affecting people's lives directly that one can see how this system works. The mistake of Nu Labour was that you could get private big business to behave in way that is socially oriented. Business is there to make a profit. It's not there to produce good social outcomes. Nu Labour liked to present themselves as hard headed realists unlike supposedly old fashioned socialists like Corbyn. The opposite is the case.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2017
    maomao likes this.
  25. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    On the private housing the Zoe Williams Guardian article has this to say:

    Regenter are part of the private consortium set up to "regenerate" the estate. A consortium so complex that the person who Zoe interviews himself appears unclear who he represents.
    editor likes this.
  26. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    In the Guardian article Zoe Williams mentions an academic Stuart Hodkinson. He did research on the estate. Asking residents there views. As this was critical of the PFI project the consortium partner Regenter reported him to his university.

    I googled him and found this academic paper by him on Council PFI schemes. Provides short history of how PFI started, the changes in Council housing and reasons why New Labour took on PFI. It's as the intro to the paper good background on history of PFI in Council housing. Not about MFN in detail. Interesting as it backs up what Zoe is saying. And critical of neo liberalism.

    Myatts Field North, Chalcots Estate and Britain’s Failed PFI Housing Experiment | The People vs PFI

    I doubt that Myatts Fields PFI will be replicated. One reason was that this will no longer attract central government funding. Under New Labour it did. New Labour were not keen on Council housing. They wanted to "de Municipalise" Council housing. If a Council did ALMO, stock transfer or PFI scheme then it would get government right off of debts and central government funding.

    So project like Cressingham Garden is different. Not a full PFI scheme but still involving setting up a SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle). But some of the risks remain? ViolentPanda
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
    editor likes this.
  27. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    Stuart and one of his PhD students spent a day with us on Cressingham about a year and a half ago. He agreed with us that the SPV format is just as risky - in terms of govts being run rings round by expensive lawyers working for the developers etc - as PFI, and still relying on external investors for the build costs. Lambeth believe that using an SPV means they'll save 15-20% on what they'd pay, as a local authority, for a developer to build the housing for them. However, that 15-20% is predicated on Lambeth properly scrutinising the contracts and nailing down the finances - something they've signally failed to do on Somerleyton or at the New Town Hall, where they've instead put Council Tax payers in the hole for money we can't afford.
    CH1, Gramsci and editor like this.
  28. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    Regarding "district heating systems", they too are a risky investment. They're sold as being "hi tech", and a massive improvement on the old municipal systems, but essentially they're prone to similar issues - they need dedicated and regular maintenance; high demand can cause supply issues and can cause plant to reach the end of its useful life sooner (MFN had a pump failure recently, and no back-up pump installed as a failsafe. Residents went 12 hours with only a minimal water supply at very low pressure, which basically meant no water if you lived above ground floor) and residents on new-build with district heating are "locked in" to a supplier who can pump up charges willy-nilly. The execrable Orchard estate in east London is a case in point - repeated failures of the district heating system led to high bills for residents as the managing company attempted to pass on charges, and the fact that residents were also (as with MFN) locked in to their power supplier, meant that when the heating system failed, and people used fan heaters etc to keep themselves warm, they were paying a high rate per unit for their electricity. I know, from having a single fan heater on last November, after my combi-boiler was turned off for a week, that I went through £50 of electricity in a week, and the compo available for residents when their district heating systems fail, is inadequate to meet that cost.
    Gramsci likes this.
  29. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    I've been looking this up to try and answer my own question. Why CHP ,which should be greener heating and electricity, is causing problems.

    This article ,as you say , shows that locking in residents into one private company leads to them being exploited. Eon have a monopoly. So naturally as is the case with capitalist business Eon make the most of it at expense of some of the poorer sections of society.

    The article makes case for the (re) municipalisation of energy supply. Putting it under more democratic control. Effectively taking it out if the market. The new Mayor is looking at idea. Private enterprise is incapable of producing greener energy which is affordable and reliable.

    It's tragic that it's taken the fiasco of Myatts Fields PFI for this to be taken seriously.

    It goes against the Nu Labour project.
  30. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    He is doing interesting work on housing. And he sees a be bigger picture. This from one of the articles on Myatts and fuel poverty:

    From here

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