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Thames Water slammed by Hackney councillors for response to Finsbury Park flooding

PUBLISHED: 11:24 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:24 20 January 2020

The flooding in Finsbury Park. Picture: David Nathan

The flooding in Finsbury Park. Picture: David Nathan

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Hackney councillors have delivered a blistering assessment of Thames Water's handling of the October flooding in Finsbury Park.

A 36-inch mains pipe burst in Queen's Drive, damaging 177 homes and leaving thousands of people without water.

The company has now revealed a valve which could have stemmed the tide was faulty, meaning water continued to flow out of the pipe for hours.

Despite the burst being the third of such severity in north-east London in as many years, it was revealed at a public meeting last week that following the Lea Bridge flood in 2018, the company had ignored offers from the council to co-operate in training for such emergencies.

Cllr Sharon Patrick (Lab, Kings Park), who chairs the Living in Hackney scrutiny commission, said: "Three floods in just over three years is quite enough.

"I don't want to have to chair another meeting and hear from residents who have had their lives turned upside down by the floods, because even if everyone gets the compensation they're due and your homes are fixed and all the rest of it, that can't replace all the stress that everyone's been through.

"I think it's extremely lucky, when some people live in basement flats, that no-one was killed or seriously injured. If this had happened in the middle of the night when people were asleep, we might now be talking deaths and corporate manslaughter."

The company has said that there is "no clear and obvious reason" for the failure of the pipe, which was laid in 1892.

The trunk main, which is used to move 50 to 60 million litres of water a day from one reservoir to another, is understood to have split along its length.

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Thames Water COO Steve Spencer said: "The size of these trunk mains and where they run - to replace that while online, we would have to close most of Seven Sisters Road, for example, for a year."

The COO went on to apologise for the length of time it took for the flood to be stemmed, but explained the company was attempting to balance returning the affected areas to normal while not cutting off supply to critical sites such as hospitals and prisons.

Thames Water is also "not happy" with the state of other areas of the pipe, and are working to repair these before bringing it back into service.

After complaints about information sharing following the flooding, Thames Water's customer experience director Kelly Macfarlane admitted the company's response on the day had been "chaotic".

Cllr Patrick told Ms Macfarlane: "It's a shame you didn't pick that up at Lea Bridge, because we had the same issues."

Residents who have stayed in their properties are receiving £300 in compensation, with those suffering major disruption getting £5,000.

However, Ms Macfarlane also went on to apologise for failing to anticipate basic issues such as whether there are multiple tenants in the property, with some complaining of late or incorrect payments.

She added: "Despite our best intentions, I am sorry we've further frustrated people with something that we tried to do with positive intent."

Councillors slammed the £300 offer, pointing out the choice for people to remain had in fact saved Thames money.

Cllr Sade Etti (Lab, Clissold) said: "One thing still stands out. Thames is still about profit, and they really don't care about their customers. When it comes to the health and wellbeing of people, that is the last thing they really care about. I think that is a concept that needs to be changed."

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