Law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, instructing Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers, has today confirmed that the Peabody Trust is to re-instate the gas supply to around 240 homes on the Strawberry Vale estate in East Finchley, following the threat of a legal challenge. The housing association will now start the process of re-instating gas supply to around 240 homes but it may take up to 12 weeks. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law and so compensation claims will follow, says lawyer.
In a letter to the residents’ association dated 4 March 2016, the Trust says:
“…after talking to experts and listening to the concerns of residents we are now working to restore the gas supply for cooking as our preferred option for the estate. This will mean putting in place a comprehensive set of additional procedures in order to meet all of the requirements – this is known as a ‘Gas Safety Case’.
“The gas supply will be restored in sections to allow our gas contractors to check the system for leaks, and to carry our gas safety checks in every home. We expect to connect around 25 homes each week. As there are 267 homes on the estate, this will take around 10-12 weeks to complete…The first homes will be reconnected in the week of Monday 14th March.”
The residents have been left without a gas supply since 20 January 2016 when National Grid deemed it to be unsafe due to a faulty meter. Despite the defective meter being replaced on 22 January 2016 the Peabody Trust had been unwilling to reconnect the supply, leaving some residents without hot water or heating. Around 240 residents at the Strawberry Vale estate are currently being forced to use electric cookers, an expensive alternative which is unaffordable to the majority of residents, many of whom are pensioners, are on low incomes or receiving benefits.
Hodge Jones & Allen applied to the Central London County Court on 19 February 2016 for an injunction to force the Peabody Trust to re-instate the gas supply, or supply reasons why it cannot be done. A court hearing due to take place last Friday 4 March was postponed while Peabody Trust and Hodge Jones & Allen sought expert advice, which has now resulted in this decision by the Trust.
Jayesh Kunwardia, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen says:
“This is clearly good news for the residents of Strawberry Vale who have been without gas for more than 50 days. However, not only have the Peabody Trust failed to provide a valid reason for the gas being switched off in the first place, it is now clear that there has been historic breaches of Health & Safety Executive (HSE) regulations by running the gas supply at this estate without the correct safety procedures in place. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law.
“We are now looking at compensation claims on behalf of the residents against the Trust. The Trust’s failure has caused major upset and upheaval for the residents. At this stage I couldn’t predict what claims for compensation will amount to and each will depend on that particular resident’s circumstances. We will need to be directed by the court, but we will be asking the judge to consider awarding damages for not only the major discomfort and inconvenience but also the additional expenses which residents incurred in using the more expensive electric supply and for increased food costs”.
Shona Perkins, Treasurer, Strawberry Vale Residents Association says:
“There is no reason it should take Peabody 12 weeks as they suggest to reinstate the gas. It could be back on in 2 to 3 days if they use proper resources. In the meantime, one resident with five children narrowly avoided a fire in her home due to the poorly installed temporary electrical equipment and electric overload. It is shocking that some residents have been without hot water and heating now for more than 50 days”.
Laurence Williamson Chair, Strawberry Vale Residents Association says:
“Finally, some sense from the Peabody Trust. We’re happy that the Trust have finally come to their senses, but there are serious questions to be raised about their ability to carry out their duties as landlords, given our properties were being supplied with gas without the correct safety procedures in place.
“It’s been a difficult time for the residents here at Strawberry Vale, and no doubt this will continue for months to come until the whole estate has been reconnected. We have a diverse range of people living on the estate, including professionals, old-aged pensioners and young families, and the community spirit has shone through. We’re also very grateful to Jayesh Kunwardia at Hodge Jones & Allen, he immediately recognised the wrong in Peabody’s approach and set out to rectify matters and get justice for the residents of Strawberry Vale”.
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