Edmonton MP slams council as residents left without gas

Outdoor showers offered to residents of Cheshire House after gas switched off, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Cheshire House in Edmonton
Residents of Cheshire House in Edmonton are being told to shower in outdoor cubicles (inset, left) as mould remains in Sencan Cubuk’s flat (inset, right)

People living in an Edmonton tower block have had to endure freezing conditions without central heating and hot water after their gas supply was cut off.

Residents of 18-storey Cheshire House on Shires Estate have been offered a single electric heater and the use of outdoor shower cubicles in a cold snap that has seen temperatures stay at or near zero degrees for the past week.

The gas supply to the 1960s-built tower block was due to be turned off in January 2024 after it failed a structural safety test. But urgent action had to be taken after a leak was recently discovered and the supply was cut on 28th November.

For the past two weeks, many residents have only been able to warm their flats using a single electric heater provided by Enfield Council. Workers are now gradually installing electric boilers throughout the block.

Edmonton MP Kate Osamor has blamed the council for not addressing long-running problems at Cheshire House much sooner and said residents there felt “forgotten”.

Ema Parkinson, who is 32, said she and her two young children Avery, four, and nine-month-old Hudson, had all been ill during the past two weeks. Hudson was admitted to hospital with back-to-back viruses, and Avery had to take time off school because she was sick.

“We are all literally freezing,” she said. “We’re having to wrap up in thick jumpers and dressing gowns. My little boy has to sleep in two baby throws, socks and a jumper. We’re having to sleep in one room just to keep warm.

“We’ve not got a shower in my house. They’ve given us the option to shower outside, but it’s absolutely freezing. It is minus degrees outside in the snow. I have two small children and can’t shower them out there.”

Ema said she had been given one electric heater, and plugging in any more tripped the circuit board. Some people with gas cookers had been forced to eat sandwiches for their meals, she added, and drilling from 8am until 9pm or 10pm as work takes place on the block was causing “massive disturbance”.

Ema said she had been told it could be another four or five weeks before the works are complete, and that even then it would only be a “temporary solution”. “Christmas is going to be ruined,” she said.

Sencan Cubuk lives in Cheshire House with her 27-year-old son, and they are sharing an electric heater provided by the council. She said residents had been offered £3 per day by the council to help cover heating costs.

Sencan, who works from home, said she has resorted to switching on her oven to provide heating when she is in the kitchen. “It is like back in the dark ages,” she said. “It is degrading. It has been two weeks now. I’ve got fleeces everywhere, blankets, hot water bottles – I’m just trying to keep warm.”

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A persistent mould problem affecting her flat had worsened because of the lack of heating, Sencan said. “It is the wall in my son’s bedroom and my living room,” she explained. “I have had that for over ten years. It has just got worse. The windows are just sweating like mad – there is no heating on, so it is just dripping.”

She said the council had told her the walls just needed redecorating – workers were sent to spray the mould and wipe it away, and she had also treated the mould, but it “comes back with a vengeance”. Other flats in the block were also affected by mould, she added.

Sencan said she did not think the council had handled the situation properly or provided enough information about why the works were needed, adding that she feared for the welfare of elderly residents and people with young children.

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council’s absolute priority is to keep its tenants safe and warm – especially during the current cold snap.

“For the safety of residents it was absolutely imperative that the gas was turned off at Cheshire House immediately upon the discovery of a gas leak by Cadent. At this point all residents within the housing block were offered alternative accommodation while the situation was addressed.

“Meanwhile, Enfield Council has been working around the clock to replace the gas service in Cheshire House, and expect this work to be completed to many flats over the next week.

“For those residents who have chosen to remain at Cheshire House, we have provided heaters and blankets but appreciate the current conditions are very difficult. We urge them to keep talking to our on-site team about any additional support that can be provided including the option to move to other secure and warm accommodation while this work is completed.”

Edmonton MP Kate Osamor said she was “really worried about the welfare of residents in Cheshire House” and had “heard from many residents who have not been offered alternative accommodation by the council and remain trapped in damp, cold and freezing conditions”.

She added: “For years, residents on the Shires Estate have voiced concerns about the lack of maintenance of the properties they live in. Many of them have felt forgotten. It feels as if the council failed to fix the roof while the sun was shining, and now my constituents are paying the price.

“Unfortunately, the council’s response to this gas leak falls below the standards my constituents have a right to expect. Enfield Council must now ensure they have offered all tenants in Cheshire house alternative accommodation and look at the possibility of rent relief.”

The incident at Cheshire House comes after residents of another Edmonton tower block, Walbrook House, had their gas supply cut in summer when a similar safety problem was discovered.

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