Newington Green council block Hathersage Court undergoing gas safety works as its below government standards
PUBLISHED: 12:55 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:35 06 September 2019
Precautionary works are being carried out on a block of flats in Newington Green that doesn't meet government safety standards.
A survey of Hathersage Court found that, in the unlikely scenario of a gas leak and explosion, the 1970s concrete building might not withstand the blast.
Islington Council staff are removing gas cookers and replacing them with electrical ones, fitting safety valves and installing gas detectors at all flats on site.
The Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government wrote to all local authorities in 2017 advising them to test their Large Panel System (LPS) buildings: a popular post-war style where prefabricated concrete panels are made elsewhere and assembled onsite.
Hathersage Court was the last building to be checked and the only one that didn't meet safety standards.
LPS buildings are thought to be structurally inferior since the Ronan Point building, in Canning Town, partially collapsed after a gas explosion in 1969, which killed four people and injured 17. But Hathersage Court, which has 72 flats, was reportedly build after the accident with additional strengthening.
"Resident safety is the council's number one priority," said Islington's housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward.
"Unfortunately, we have recently been told that one of our buildings, Hathersage Court, does not meet a required building safety standard. There is no immediate cause for alarm, but buildings must be able to withstand a variety of emergency scenarios, and for that reason we will be putting in precautionary gas safety measures, including extra safety checks.
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"Ultimately we will remove gas supply from Hathersage Court and we will consult with residents about how we do this. The council's other LPS blocks have been found to meet safety standards.
"We know this will cause disruption to residents - we're very sorry for this and we will do our best to keep this to a minimum while we carry out the vital work. Staff are on-site, and we are working to keep residents updated, with staff available to answer any queries."
But Andrea Samuels, 63, who's lived in the block for 17 years, said: "I think it's disgusting they left it all this time. It worries me. We don't feel safe.
"I'm not happy about what's going on, that it's going all electric. They haven't taken my gas cooker yet but they will. The council doesn't care."
A 42-year-old woman said she's had problems with leaks and mould since she moved into her flat 10 years ago, but alleges these problems haven't been addressed. She only brought her new gas cooker a few months ago for £600 after flooding ruined it.
"If there was a gas explosion it would be bad because it's a concrete building and there's no way to stop it," she said. "It worries me because I have three kids and sometimes I go out and they stay inside, so I switch the gas off when I leave the house - but something could happen in my neighbours' houses." She also fears her electricity bills will go up when she switches to the electric cooker, a sentiment echoed by several other neighbours.
Another woman said she thinks the council's plans are "ridiculous" because the building is "crumbling" and "damp" and should be demolished and rebuilt.
But Yosef Duesson, who's lived there for 21 years, said: "The gas is really dangerous and they have to fix it. This is how it works. I don't mind the engineers coming to do it, it's for safety. It's good the building is getting refurbished."
Rabeya Sultana, a tenant of 11 years, added: "It's good they are doing it. They haven't changed my cooker yet but I have ordered it. If it's safer it's fine. We want to stay safe so whatever does that is best."
In December, the planning committee unanimously approved plans to build 45 new homes in seven tower blocks around Hathersage Court and its neighbouring Besant Court, comprising 21 council flats, 21 private units and three properties for shared ownership.