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THE GAS STORY ENDS!
February 2018 - Peabody lawyers reach an out of court settlement with 60 claimants.

The gas supply was restored in June 2016 - after 19 weeks!
It began in January 2016 when a gas meter serving the entire estates' gas supply was shut down because it was faulty. Peabody had the meter replaced but decided not to restore the gas supply, telling residents the gas supply from National Grid was unsafe because of 'all the new housing in East Finchley'!

As lies go they don't get much more stupid than that - we disproved it within hours.
Why did Peabody do it?

When the meter was replaced they were asked for the safety certificate for the gas supply system and .. 'Er - we don't have one'.    In fact, we discovered they had never had one - in 18 years!
It's an offence that could put a landlord in prison. So, very probably, rather than see the insides of Pentonville and Holloway, the Peabody execs decided to invent a fictional reason, blaming low gas pressure from National Grid, for not restoring the gas supply.
 By doing this they hoped to avoid the lack of safety certificates being revealed.

 They could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if they had turned the gas back on in January and just said 'our dog ate the safety certificates'.
       


22nd January 2016. A faulty gas meter owned by Peabody causes low pressure. It is replaced but Peabody decide not to restore the gas supply to 270 homes in Strawberry Vale. They claim the gas supply from National Grid is unreliable and therefore unsafe.
gas supply letter  
  We ask Peabody to produce the evidence from their engineers and experts that made them decide they could not rely on the gas supply.

Letter to Joe  
  The Peabody execs repeatedly refused to answer this question even when asked by our lawyers.  
  22nd February 2016. We ask CEO Steve Howlett in a meeting and by letter about safety certificates.

23rd letter  
  Three days later, after more than a month with no gas and with court action looming the Peabody execs finally revealed the reason they hadn't restored the gas supply:  
  They have NEVER had Health and Safety Executive safety certificates for their gas network to the 270 homes in Strawberry Vale!
No cert letter  
  An extraordinary admission from one of London's biggest landlords.  Suddenly the 'gas supply problems' were no longer mentioned.  They then began work to restore the gas supply with safety certificates in place.  
  gas badge                 

          96.5% of homes on Strawberry Vale
          prefer to have gas for cooking!

          SVRA survey
 
 

As contractors started work Sandra Skeete, Peabody Director of Housing, issues a
press statement
press statement  
  This is a complete reversal from what Sandra Skeete and Peabody told us in January - that the gas supply couldn't be restored because:  
  1. There was a safety problem with the National Grid supply.
2. The pipework around the estate had faults which had to be investigated.

 
 

It is not only residents who have been misled but the media, our elected representatives and even some Peabody staff who have been dealing with the problems caused.  Hundreds of residents, young, old and vulnerable, have suffered not just considerable extra expense but also injuries and ill-health.

Sadly, it seems that it has taken the threat of court action to reveal the truth that was being kept covered up. We expect that more questions will come of this.

 
 

 

 
     
  gas news
The news update of the Gas Story from day one.
The background and a brief timeline.
Gas or Electricity - why a choice matters.


No half truths or rumours here - just facts!
 
  THE START

Wednesday January 20th 2016
. National Grid shut off cooking gas supply to the estate  because a faulty meter is making the gas supply pressure unsafe.

Thursday 21st. The Peabody NM sends out a letter identifying the meter as 'defective'.

Friday 22nd. The faulty meter is replaced and we are told work is about to start restoring the gas supply, but the contractors do not have enough operatives on site to carry out the safety checks.

Saturday 23rd. The local church and volunteers cook and serve hundreds of meals every day for the next ten days. The Red Cross are called in to help deliver hot meals around the estate.

                     Red Cross

A big thank you to Helen and her team at The Green Man.  People met up with their neighbours - it was a small silver lining to the clouds.

Thursday 28th Peabody write to all residents that they will not restore the gas supply for cooking, but provide and install electric cookers/ovens and hobs. Alternatively, give residents £250 each to buy and install their own.
After complaints from several residents this was increased to £500.

The letter from Joe Joseph of Peabody put through doors on Thursday 28th refers to the second meter for the gas cooking supply being shut down because of low gas pressure. The first meter and the communal boilers supply (from the same gas main) were not affected.

The letter does NOT mention that the low gas pressure was caused by the second meter being FAULTY, and it does NOT mention that the meter had been replaced and had tested ok on Friday 22nd.

Instead Peabody execs Joe Joseph and John Everett tell residents it would be unsafe to restore the gas supply because there is low gas pressure in the area 'because of all the new housing.' Peabody exec John Everett also says that National Grid 'will not guarantee a safe supply'.

Peabody have never provided any evidence to support these claims despite frequent requests from residents and lawyers.

FACT: 90 - 95% of the gas on to the estate goes to the boilers, the rest into the cooking gas supply.  It all comes through one mains pipe which divides just before the two meters. Strangely the 'reduced gas supply' does not affect the boilers!

Many residents who contributed to the cost of the new gas main supply in 2009 wonder why they will no longer receive gas in their homes when they had to pay £1000s for its supply.

Friday 29th January 2016. We called National Grid who visited and confirmed that a new meter is in place, they measured the gas pressure going in to both meters and established that there is NO PROBLEM with their gas supply to the estate.

                   
                             SVRA members and Leo the dog on Friday morning

Saturday 30th we hold an emergency meeting for residents at The Green Man and start a petition. Before the meeting Peabody exec John Everett tells a group of SVRA members that "National Grid are being dishonest with you" about their gas supply. This claim was untrue.

                     SVRA meeting


On Sunday 31st the heating failed for a few hours. We called out National Grid again.

                     Mick Walsh in the meter room
                           A resident in the meter room with glowing engineer

Once again, the National Grid engineer confirmed there was no problem with the gas supply.  The boilers had shut down because of a split connector in a water supply pipe to the boilers. We asked Peabody execs Sandra Skeete and Joe Joseph to provide the evidence they had that the gas supply was unsafe. We wrote asking for the evidence.   They have never replied to this letter, indeed when asked about it some months later Joe Joseph replied that he didn't think he needed to!

Tuesday 2nd February 2016. Peabody start two days of 'drop in' sessions where residents are lead to individual meetings with Peabody executives and told that their gas supply will not be restored and they must choose their electric cookers.  170 people sign our petition demanding the supply be restored and it is handed to Joe Joseph.
The SVRA called in ITV News and the local papers.

 ITV ran a story showing the real hardship being caused by the failure to restore the gas supply.

                   

Wednesday 3rd. BBC Radio London cover the story.

                  

National Grid were tweeting their response as the story was broadcast.
                 National Grid tweets

Thursday 4th February. We receive detailed confirmation from National Grid that on 20th January, there was nothing wrong with the supply to the meter. A fault with the meter was restricting the gas flow and causing low pressure in the pipes around the estate. This was why the gas supply had to be cut off. The faulty meter was replaced on 22nd January and tested ok.

Friday 5th.
A group of residents start legal action against Peabody demanding  that they produce the evidence to show that the gas supply is unsafe.  Peabody are given until midday Tuesday to respond.

Saturday 6th.
One family with no heating or hot water has been reconnected to the communal heating system.  We send out a Newsletter to all residents.

Sunday 7th. We are inviting residents to sign up to the legal action. The action demands that Peabody restore the gas supply or produce the evidence why they can't.  We first asked Peabody execs Sandra Skeete and Joe Joseph for this evidence on 31st January. The legal action is also claiming for compensation. It is open to all residents affected.

        LBC Radio visited and covered the story.


                   
 
We briefed the reporter that describing the estate as 'deprived' or in other negative ways was inaccurate.
Although one thing we are deprived of is gas!

Tuesday 9th February. Residents with no heating or hot water continue to suffer with no solution being offered to them.
The legal deadline is extended by a day. 

Wednesday 10th.
Mike Freer MP made a brief early morning visit here to see the problems first hand. He has met with CEO Steve Howlett and we have the impression things are changing, but not fast.

Steve Howlett had told Mike Freer that there was a problem of low pressure with the gas ring main but it was being investigated and might need new pipework.

There is a change in attitude to the electric cookers, see this letter from the lawyers.

Peabody eventually responded to our lawyers late afternoon. Any resident who wants to know more please email with your name and address.

Thursday 11th. Because this is a legal matter in process there is a limit to what can be on a public website.
However, the lawyers are keen to sign up many more residents to join the claim for compensation.

Saturday 13th. All residents receive a letter from our lawyers inviting those affected by the loss of their gas supply to join the group claim for compensation.

Wednesday 17th.
Many people are angry here about the way they are being treated but there is no reason to write offensive graffiti about Peabody on the back garden wall of one of our neighbours. Perhaps the culprit could clean the wall rather than leave all of us picking up the bill for them.

Four weeks on and Peabody are offering supermarket vouchers and advice on your electricity bills. Before collecting your voucher please see this.

Thursday 18th. The graffiti disappeared faster than the Banksy in Wood Green.  It's impressive how quickly Peabody were able to respond to that particular problem!

Friday 19th February 2016. Peabody continue to encourage the residents to go electric.  The simple offer of a supermarket voucher is being used to sign residents up to select an electric cooker before they can get their voucher.

 Cooker first then the voucher Peabody staff tell the residents 'no decision has been made yet about whether the estate will be gas or electric, but if it is electric you can choose your cooker now.'
Residents queue for their voucher - but only after making a choice of electric cooker:
Cooker first

1. Choose your cooker - only electric available. 2. Show your id. 3. Collect your £100 voucher!

Many residents saw through this very obvious ploy, but many were left confused.

We immediately contacted our lawyer who issued
this letter to Peabody and assured us that residents who have signed up to the legal claim will not jeopardise their claim by accepting the vouchers.

There is little doubt that Peabody will claim that this was a process of consulting the residents, listening to them, helping them and giving them choice - electric or electric!

Energy advice desk

There was also an energy advice desk to help residents reduce their electricity bills.

Night storage heaters
Alarmingly, one of the helpful documents was how to use electric night storage heaters.

We hope this will not be the next step. All it would need is another faulty gas meter and off goes the heating....


                   Why choosing gas or electricity matters


Saturday 20th February 2016. About 70 residents turned out for today's meeting and we had the helpful presence of all three councillors who were invited.

SVRA meeting

Two staff from Peabody turned up uninvited and we asked them to take questions from the residents rather than sit taking notes.

Patrice Eriata Patrice Eriata from Peabody explaining how difficult it is for Peabody to restore the gas supply.

She was still blaming the problems on National Grid for an unreliable and unsafe supply.

 

Monday 22nd February 2016. We had an early morning meeting with Mike Freer MP and Peabody CEO Steve Howlett and Peabody exec Sandra Skeete. They agreed to keep us better informed about their progress investigating the 'problem' with the gas supply. They didn't want to discuss the January events and decisions. 

                             Two warriors SVRA Treasurer Shona Perkins waiting in Portcullis House to meet Mike Freer and Steve Howlett.

Statue of Boudica in the background.
Tuesday 23rd. We write to CEO Steve Howlett asking for clarity over the existence of the HSE gas safety certificates which we were told are now being applied for. We suspect that Peabody may never have had them in place and that this is the true reason for not re-connecting the gas supply and blaming National Grid instead.

Additionally, the Evening Standard covers the story.

Wednesday 24th.
Our lawyers have appointed our own gas expert to inspect the system.  He will visit on Friday in order to have a report available for Court on the 4th.

Our petition of 170 signatures collected in just a few hours has been replied to by Sandra Skeete.
She writes that 'we will consider your petition alongside the other feedback', presumably the feedback gained from the drop in sessions when residents were being told that gas would never come back!

The SVRA survey (impartial and without supermarket vouchers) results continue coming in and the results from a third of the estate still show 100% in favour of gas.

Friday 26th. After four weeks Peabody admit the truth, they have never had Health and Safety Executive safety certificates, known as a 'gas safety case', for the gas supply network in Strawberry Vale.

Saturday 27th. Survey results still coming in. 99% favour gas.  It is important that we fairly reflect what ALL residents want - not just those who want gas so electric users please complete it as well. Everyone should be heard.

Tuesday 1st March 2016. The court hearing for Friday is postponed.  The action to claim compensation will continue.

Wednesday 2nd March. We receive a letter from Joe Joseph in reply to our letter of 31st January asking for their evidence - saying he didn't think he needed to reply.

Saturday 5th March. All residents receive a letter from Joe Joseph letting us know that work restoring the gas supply will begin in the week of 14th March. They expect to reconnect only 25 homes per week  which means it could be another three months before all homes are finally reconnected.
Tuesday 8th. Peabody exec Sandra Skeete issues a  press statement:   'We have no reason to think that the gas supply was previously unsafe.'

Wednesday 9th. Contractors PJ Woods and Sons Ltd begin work restoring the gas supply.

Thursday 10th. The first houses are reconnected to the gas supply. After seven weeks some gas hobs, cookers and boilers are working again  but it could still be ten weeks before all homes are reconnected.

Saturday 12th. Peabody provide a new liaison officer, Angel Igbo. Her contact number in her letter was mistyped.
The correct number is XXXXXXXXX.

Tuesday 15th. Nursery Road and some of Brook Walk are now reconnected, apart from a few houses where no one was in on the day. The contractors return on Saturdays to complete these. They expect to complete Stable Walk next week and begin Old Farm Road.

The barrier block has metal gas pipes many of which are exposed on the roof.  They will require more stringent testing than the buried plastic pipes to the rest of the estate, which is why several weeks are being allowed to complete.  But, so far, the rate of reconnection is 3 to 4 times faster than predicted.

Part of the reconnection process involves 'purging' the pipes - clearing them of air. This can mean some gas is released and will be smelt. This will happen only during the day.

Wednesday 23rd March. Nursery Road, Brook Walk and Stable Walk are now reconnected.

Wednesday 23rd April. Four weeks on and Old Farm Road is still waiting for gas. The contractors recently told a resident it would be 'weeks and weeks and weeks'. We have made enquiries with Peabody but get little information other than being told 'it is to schedule', meaning it could take until June for everyone to be reconnected.
The contractors have now been told not to communicate with residents!

Friday 22nd April. Peabody liaison officer Angela Igbo expects to have news next week about when reconnections in Old Farm Road will start.

Tuesday 26th. Peabody liaison officer Angela Igbo issues a letter setting out the plan to have all Old Farm Road properties re connected to the gas supply by 13th May 2016.

 

                    Claimants outside The Royal Courts of Justice Friday 29th April 2016. 4 of the 5 claimants attend The Royal Courts of Justice for a Case Management Conference which sets out a lengthy timetable for court proceedings about liability. The Peabody lawyers ask for delays to allow negotiation towards a settlement.

 
  Tuesday 3rd May. The first homes in Old Farm Road are re-connected to the gas supply.

Monday 9th May. The residents of Hawthorn Dene learn that they may have to wait until 18th July to be re-connected to the gas supply by National Grid.

Tuesday 17th May.
The residents of Hawthorn Dene are reconnected to the gas supply.

Thursday 2nd June 2016.
Peabody claim to have reinstated the gas supply to all homes, except 12 having new kitchens fitted and 4 where they have been unable to contact the residents.

26th July 2016. Peabody offer residents £1 per day compensation for loss of gas supply plus £1 per week for extra electricity costs and £50 for the general inconvenience.

16th August 2016. Lawyers acting for 60 residents issue a group litigation order against Peabody claiming damages and compensation for the loss of the gas supply.

19th August 2016.  Peabody Executive Director of Housing Sandra Skeete suddenly leaves her job. Sources in Peabody tell us that the gas saga in Strawberry Vale was a factor in her leaving.

By the end of 2016 two further Peabody execs closely involved with the attempt to prevent residents having their gas supply restored also leave Peabody.


February 15th 2018. The gas legal case is now finally settled! Two years, one month and five trips to Court later, Strawberry Vale residents who took legal action against Peabody to make them restore the gas supply to our homes have reached an out of court settlement before going to trial.

All 60 claimants should receive some compensation, but more importantly, Peabody have agreed to maintain the gas supply for the foreseeable future. The gas supply will also conform to safety regulations, something that was not done before.

In fact, during the safety checks carried out in 2016, contractors found that some of the gas pipes hidden in service ducts were corroding and in need of replacement. These downpipes in Old Farm Road were promptly replaced with 31 new visible external pipes.

The whole episode was a public relations disaster for Peabody attracting negative media coverage and creating a negative view amongst residents.

To their credit, the Peabody lawyer apologised to us for what went on two years ago and many Peabody staff have worked hard to improve relations with residents. We hope that nothing like this will ever happen again.