Time to stop the rot

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about the roof at Coronation School Pembroke Dock.

The issue here is whether the whole of the roof was reslated, because that’s what was paid for.

And, what’s more, it was paid for with Heritage Lottery funds which are supposed to be reserved for “good causes”.

It was my contention that some parts of the roof were undisturbed (see Night on the tiles) and I included the following in a letter to the audit committee.

According to the final account for this project £46,924 was paid to the builder for slate, felt and batten.
As far as I know, no one has yet mastered the art of felt and battening a roof with the slates in situ.
There is other evidence that these slates have not been disturbed.

The council’s response, contained in a report by its internal audit service presented to Cabinet on 2 December 2013, read:

The roofing works were included in the original tender and were eligible for grant funding.
The whole roof
[my emphasis] was stripped off and recovered in a mixture of new and recycled natural slate on new felt and battens. These works commenced in May 2010 and were completed in July 2010 with the works to the chimney stacks happening at the same time the roof was stripped.

Following that meeting Cllrs Jamie Adams (Leader) and David Pugh (Cabinet member with responsibility for grants) decided to do some detective work of their own and when the matter came before full council ten days later Pugh was able to tell the meeting:

“The whole of the roof [my emphasis] was stripped off and re-covered in a mixture of new and recycled natural slates on new felt and battens.

I personally have been up in that roof and checked it, as has the Leader. That work has been done to the specification.”

While the Leader claimed:

“I do have in my possession here today signed letters from, for example, the main contractor and indeed the subcontractor for the roof at Coronation School Meyrick Street Pembroke Dock which indicate that the entire roof was stripped and reclad [my emphasis] in new and used natural slates on new felt and batten.
And, as Cllr Pugh has indicated, both he and I have been in those lofts and have seen that for ourselves.”

Well, as we now know, this attempt to discredit me was based on a lie because it is not possible to see the whole of the roof from the two available access points and, as they each referred to the other during their speeches, the indication is that they conspired together to concoct this story.

I put down a question to the Leader about this at the May full council meeting and I understand from one of my moles that when the matter was discussed at the IPPG’s pre-meeting meeting Cllr Brian Hall explained at some length why it was not possible to inspect the whole of the roof without cutting holes in the ceilings of the flats.

So, all those IPPG members present at that meeting know the two of them were lying, though none has yet summoned up the courage to stand up for the truth.

In the event the Leader claimed that he couldn’t answer my question because it might prejudice the police investigation.

This excuse was defective for three reasons:

1) There hasn’t yet been a police investigation.

2) Even if a police investigation was underway, the Contempt of Court legislation (often referred to as sub judice) doesn’t become operative until proceedings are “active” i.e. someone has been arrested, or charged, and

3) The matters referred to the police by the council concern the Commercial Property Grant Scheme, and the Coronation School project was carried out under the entirely separate Townscape Heritage Initiative.

On 19 September we will be debating a motion of no confidence in the Leader and you can be sure that I will be challenging IPPG members to let their constituents know whether or not they consider that, when it comes to public affairs, the truth is optional.

Another reason for returning to this subject is that a concerned Pembroke Dock resident has sent me some very interesting photographs of this recently reslated roof, one of which is reproduced below.

What can clearly be seen is the difference between the left and right sections of the roof which have been reslated with recycled slates and the centre panel, which hasn’t.

As one wag put it: “How clever of them to have recycled the lichen”.

But this photo shows something even more conclusive – a large number of slates resting in the gutter.

This is the result of what roofers call “nail rot” where the heads of the galvanised steel nails rust away leaving the slates at the mercy of gravity.

Modern practice is to use copper or other non-ferrous nails, but, as even galvanised steel nails are good for at least 30 or 40 years, this is not a problem you expect to encounter in a four-year-old roof.

Building regulations 7.2 – M5:
(b) fixings
Clout or slate nails for fixing slates and tiles should be one of the following and at least 38mm long:
• aluminium to BS 1202 : Part 3
• copper to BS 1202 : Part 2
• silicon bronze.

Time to stop the rot