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Cambridge City Council

Council acts swiftly to deal with gas installations at Cambridge blocks of flats

News release from 5 August 2021

CAMBRIDGE City Council is undertaking immediate work to cap off gas supplies to properties at three blocks of flats in order to ensure the safety of residents there. 

The three blocks of flats – Hanover Court and Princess Court, off Hills Road, and Kingsway Flats in Arbury ward – are home to a mix of council tenants and private residents. 

They were originally built in the 1960s without a gas supply to properties, but during the following 30 years a gas supply was installed for heating and cooking purposes in some of the flats there. 

Routine work on structural improvements to Hanover Court and Princess Court was recently started by the council, and this included checks by a structural engineer. The structural engineer’s report suggested that if anything were to go wrong with the gas supply, such as an explosion caused by a gas leak, it might cause major damage to the structure of the buildings. 

The report recommended that all gas appliances at Hanover Court and Princess Court should be changed to electric so that gas supplies can be disconnected.  

The risk of any gas explosion remains extremely low, but the council has put in place a programme of immediate work, having liaised with other local authorities who are dealing with similar issues.

A separate report has made the same recommendation regarding gas appliances and gas supply at Kingsway Flats, which was built at around the same time as Hanover Court and Princess Court, and to a similar design. 

The council has written to all residents in Princess Court, Hanover Court and Kingsway Flats, setting out its proposed plan of action and the support which will be provided. Council officers are also visiting and talking to residents today. 

Action to be taken will involve: 

 - Immediately capping off gas meters and providing residents with temporary electric cooking and heating equipment where needed. 

 - Replacing gas cookers with new electric cookers at no cost to residents 

 - Fitting solenoid valves and natural gas detectors to all gas heating appliances, so that if there were a gas leak the gas supply would shut off immediately. Once this work is completed gas meters can be temporarily reconnected until arrangements are made to permanently replace gas heating appliances with electric ones.  

 - The gas supplier will then deal with switching off the mains gas supply to the three buildings. 

It is understood that of the 257 flats across the three locations, no more than 68 are affected.  

The council will be working closely with residents at the three blocks of flats to ensure they are inconvenienced as little as possible while this issue is rectified. 

The structural report was commissioned as part of planned longer-term work on Hanover Court, Princess Court and Kingsway Flats, which are now all more than 50 years old.  

Cllr Mike Todd-Jones, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Once we received the report from the structural engineers we needed to take action as soon as possible to ensure the safety of residents at these three blocks of flats.  

“I completely understand the inconvenience and disruption this urgent work will cause for residents. However, safety must be the most important consideration. We know the likelihood of damage caused by a gas leak is extremely low, but, if it were to happen, any impact would be severe. I hope that residents at the flats will appreciate the urgency of the work being carried out. 

“I urge residents to get in touch with us if they have any concerns, and I want to thank them in advance for their patience and cooperation. I have been liaising with tenant and leaseholder representatives and will continue to do so.”