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Could the drive to go green mean your gas supply is under threat?

Anxious times: Jon Whitefield has been told the gas supply to his one-bedroom flat in Croydon could be cut off due to damaged pipes

When Jon Whitefield bought his one-bedroom flat in Croydon, south London, for £220,000 four years ago, he knew it was in dire need of refurbishment.

Like many first-time buyers moving up the housing ladder, he had to buy a ‘doer-upper’ – and the flat had no boiler or central heating system.

So the 37-year-old construction worker spent the next six months and £15,000 of his savings installing a new kitchen, bathroom and floor, and having the walls painted and tiled. He also installed a new gas boiler at a cost of £3,000.

Anxious times: Jon Whitefield has been told the gas supply to his one-bedroom flat in Croydon could be cut off due to damaged pipes

Anxious times: Jon Whitefield has been told the gas supply to his one-bedroom flat in Croydon could be cut off due to damaged pipes

All told, Jon, who is single, ended up spending most of the pot of savings he had accumulated since he was 16 on the renovations. But now he has to rip it all out – and start over.

Because in a letter seen by Money Mail and sent to the 35 residents of Jon’s building, the company that brings gas to the building threatened to cut off the power completely.

The company, SGN, doesn’t think it’s worth replacing one of the damaged pipes supplying the 1970s block because so few of Jon’s fellow townspeople use the gas.

Only three out of ten apartments use gas, the rest relying solely on electricity for heating and cooking.

SGN says replacing the damaged pipe and necessary upgrades for others showing wear would cost £60,000.

Still, shutting off the gas completely will render Jon’s boiler useless and mean his radiators, pipes, and gas oven all need to be replaced.

Even though his costs will run into several thousand pounds, SGN have only offered him £500 – a sum Jon describes as “insulting”.

“I spent a lot of time getting the property together the way I wanted,” he says, “and I was looking forward to enjoying the fruits of my labor.

“I don’t think they understand how hard I will have to work to go electric. I refuse to accept what SGN is doing.

SGN has asked Jon to send two quotes for the boiler replacement and installation costs, which he will “review”. But consumer experts say SGN may be able to cut it off without its consent if it deems the gas supply unsafe.

As part of the net zero goals, by 2025, no new construction of houses will be equipped with gas boilers.  Instead, they will have ecological devices such as heat pumps or electric boilers.

As part of the net zero goals, by 2025, no new construction of houses will be equipped with gas boilers. Instead, they will have ecological devices such as heat pumps or electric boilers.

His story may offer an alarming glimpse into the future as UK households are moved away from gas boilers in a bid to cut carbon emissions.

As part of the net zero goals, by 2025, no new construction of houses will be equipped with gas boilers. Instead, they will have ecological devices such as heat pumps or electric boilers.

The government encourages all households to switch to more environmentally friendly options if they can.

SGN says it has implemented “buy-back programs” to remove gas from 74 buildings over the past two years. A buy-back program offers money to residents in exchange for shutting off the gas supply.

The distributor first wrote to residents of Jon’s building to discuss the proposal in August.

The letter read: ‘It has been identified that the gas lines supplying your building need to be replaced.

However, we have found that there are a limited number of residents in the building who use gas.

As a result, and in order to avoid the disruption that the replacement work would cause for all local residents, we are asking for your agreement to permanently isolate the gas supply.

Green energy: UK households moved away from gas boilers to cut carbon emissions

Green energy: UK households moved away from gas boilers to cut carbon emissions

SGN says the owners of the building had raised concerns about how the property would look if the necessary renovations took place to keep it connected to the gas supply.

The work would require the installation of exterior pipes.

Jon, who owns the flat as a tenant, said: ‘I have a neighbor I have discussed this with and he also refuses to allow this to happen. SGN did not explain or specify anything. It’s ruthless.

Jon ignored the letter, as he has no interest in giving SGN permission to move forward.

SGN insists that its takeover process involves obtaining written consent from the building owner, tenants and customers. Without this consent, it will not proceed. He sent another letter this month.

Bradley Barlow, spokesperson for SGN, said: “Our buyout process is a proposal to disconnect the gas supply and involves offering all residents the option of permanently isolating their gas supply, offering compensation to convert their gas appliances to electricity and cover the labor involved in the conversion.

“£500 is offered to all customers, but we are able to increase this amount if the cost of the conversion is higher, subject to evidence being provided to show the reason for the extra cost.”

This will leave Jon with a battle to get what he believes to be the right pay grade.

SGN adds that it may pursue the takeover if it finds it to be the only safe and compliant option.

Consumer champion Martyn James says: ‘At the end of the day the gas distributor is on contract with the property management company so residents may not have a choice.

He says that if you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do would be to arrange a residents meeting and discuss the matter with other people in the building.

“From there, it might be worth filing a complaint,” he adds.

h.kelly@dailymail.co.uk

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