NEIGHBOURS are questioning why it will take up to 12 weeks for the gas in a troubled estate to be switched back on after seven weeks of “hell”.

People in Strawberry Vale, East Finchley, may have to wait until June before they can use their hobs, ovens and heating again after housing association Peabody switched the gas off on January 20.

Bosses initially blamed the glitch on a broken meter, but after this was fixed they refused to switch it back on and it later emerged it did not have a gas safety certificate, as required by law.

After being threatened with legal action, housing association Peabody agreed to start switching the gas back on March 12 – but this process can take three months.

Shona Perkins, a lawyer who has had no heating or hot water, said: “It’s disappointing. There is no reason why it should take Peabody 12 weeks to reinstate the gas.

“It is shocking some residents have been without hot water and heating for more than 50 days.”

She said in 2008, Peabody carried out gas maintenance works which took a couple of days to complete and is demanding to know why it will take so long.

Laurence Williamson, chairman of the Strawberry Vale Residents Association, said: “Finally – some sense from Peabody.

“But there are serious questions to be raised about their ability to carry out their duties as landlords, given our properties were being supplied gas without the correct safety procedures in place.

“It’s been a difficult time for the residents here at Strawberry Vale, and no doubt this will continue for months to come until the whole estate has been reconnected.”

The group are now seeking compensation from Peabody for what they have described as a “shambolic” situation.

Without the use of an oven or a hob, many have been forced to use electric hot plates which have tripled their bills and spend extra money on ready-made, microwavable food.

Jayesh Kunwardia, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, who have taken on their case, said:: “Not only have Peabody failed to provide a valid reason for the gas being off in the first place, it’s now clear there have been historic breaches of health and safety regulations.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. We are now looking at compensation claims on behalf of the residents against the trust.

“Its failure has caused major upset and upheaval for the residents. At this stage I couldn’t predict what claims for compensation will amount to and each will depend on that particular resident’s circumstances.”

“We will need to be directed by the court, but we will be asking the judge to consider awarding damages for not only the major discomfort and inconvenience but also the additional expenses which residents incurred in using the more expensive electric supply and for increased food costs”.

Sandra Skeete, director of housing at Peabody, said: "The delay in restoring gas for cooking is because we are in the unusual position of being classed as a Gas Conveyer at the estate.

"We have also discussed our approach with the Health and Safety Executive. Restoration of the gas will need to be done in phases. It will take some time to reconnect the whole estate and we will continue to offer a package of support to residents in the interim.

"We have no reason to think that the gas supply was previously unsafe. The pipework was substantially renewed in 2008 and a full safety check of the whole system was carried out at that time."