Agenda item

Stannington Gas Incident

To provide an update on the recent incident.



Tim Myatt, Head of Corporate Affairs at Yorkshire Water, reported on the recent gas incident in Stannington. Also present for this item were Nathan Sunderland (Manager of Asset Planning and Network Engineering) and Vicky Scroggins (Customer Liaison Advisor) who had been leading on communication with residents regarding ongoing works on Bankfield Lane.




My Myatt offered an apology on behalf of Yorkshire Water to all those who suffered inconvenience or distress due to the gas incident in Stannington. He added that Yorkshire Water deeply regretted the impact on residents, particularly those who lost heating during a very cold weather period. He added that Yorkshire Water was proud of its identity and, with the vast majority of staff living and working in Yorkshire, team members understood the importance of quickly resolving the issues in Stannington and Hillsborough.




Mr Myatt outlined the incident, which began late on the evening of December when treated water began to escape from a significant water supply main on Bankfield Lane, which is a significant water supply main. This was repaired quickly, and there were no issues remaining within the Yorkshire Water network. He noted that the presence, scale and impact of water in the gas network then became clear and full support from Yorkshire Water teams was offered to Cadent. Throughout the incident the Bronze and Silver level incident management teams coordinated support to Cadent. Support was coordinated through the Tactical Coordination Group and the Strategic Coordination Group, aiming to assist Cadent and other partners, including Sheffield City Council.




He noted that there had been a variety of communication methods to keep residents up-to-date and notify them on how they could access support. This included targeted text messages, the Yorkshire Water website, door-to-door visits, letter drops, press releases and media appearances.




Mr Myatt explained that as the inter-agency response to the incident began to have effect, a Yorkshire Water payment scheme was put into place for residents to help offset additional costs and expenses residents may have incurred. This was separate to payments that Cadent were making for loss of gas supply. He asked for any residents that had any queries regarding the payment scheme or claims to share their details with Yorkshire Water staff present at the meeting.




Yorkshire Water understood that residents wanted to know how this incident had occurred, and Mr Myatt advised that this was now the subject of an investigation by Burgoynes, an independent forensic expert appointed by Yorkshire Water.




Mr Holmes confirmed that on 9 January, 2023,  Yorkshire Water began work to replace and relocate the section of main which was damaged away from the gas mains. This work was being carried out in accordance with best practice and aimed to reduce the chance of similar incident. The work was expected to continue until around 10 February, 2023. Vicky Scroggins had been informing residents of this work, including door to door letter drops.




Taking a wider view of network resilience in Stannington, Yorkshire Water were reviewing performance and how to reduce the chance of further incidents. This included modifying the pumps to reduce the chance of ‘shocks’ to the network (known as transients), and also installing Variable Speed Drives at the pumping station which reduced the chance of these shocks. They were also looking at reducing pressure in areas of the Stannington network, and in the longer term conducting mains renewal on assets with a greater risk of bursts. All of these measures were expected to reduce the risk of further incidents in the area.




Mr Myatt was aware that were lessons to be learnt and confirmed that Yorkshire Water had participated in multi-agency incident de-briefs and were are also conducting a thorough internal process. He reiterated that Yorkshire Water deeply regretted the incident and were keen to increase resilience in the area.




David Luck, Local Area Committee Service Manager, shared contact details on screen and advised that paper copies would be available at Stannington Library.




The Chair thanked Mr Myatt for attending, and invited questions from those present at the meeting.




(a)  Jenny Van Tinteren




We understood that there would be an inquiry into this incident. Is that going to be carried out by an external body or an internal investigation through Yorkshire Water?




Mr Myatt confirmed that Yorkshire Water insurers had appointed an independent body to investigate and Cadent would also be appointing an independent investigator. The regulator was also involved and would be updated on the outcome of the investigations.




Jayne Hawley, local resident and Labour Party member




This has been a major incident and although residents will get compensation, we need to know who will pay for this ultimately. I am concerned that service users will end up with higher bills. Do shareholders pay in terms of dividends?




In response, Nathan Sunderland confirmed that the regulator set the amount of bill increases that Yorkshire Water could charge its customers, which was usually in line with inflation, and that this capped the amount of capital investment that could be made. Given funding constraints, Yorkshire Water was we limited in the level of repair that could take place. There would be mains failures across the region, but the objective of the company was to reduce the number of incidents.




Mr Myatt added that asset maintenance was funded through the five year price review, which set out expenditure across all wastewater and water networks.




(b)  Sean Ebenezer




How was the figure of £60 compensation per household from Yorkshire Water arrived at when the main cause of the problem was the water leak? This doesn’t feel fair, especially given the timing of the incident, during a cold spell just before the festive season.




Mr Myatt noted that the cause of the incident was still the subject of an investigation. A standard amount of £60 had been paid to all households that had lost gas supply. A bespoke scheme also allowed residents the option to seek further compensation. He advised that Cadent had a statutory duty to provide a certain level of compensation as their network had been affected.




Councillor Baker, as a Councillor and resident of Stannington Ward, gave her experiences of the incident. She explained that the seriousness of the incident soon became apparent, but noted that Cadent had quickly attended the scene and were immediately helpful, providing regular updates and involving support organisations such as the British Red Cross. A support ‘hub’ was set up at Lomas Hall and had provided Cadent workers with hot food. Local businesses such as Minnie’s, Top House (Crown and Glove) and the Peacock had provided support to residents affected by way of hot food and drinks and warm places to sit. She commended the Cadent workers for the efficient, polite and informative way in which they carried out their work.




Councillor Baker also extended her thanks to the local primary schools for opening so quickly following the incident, and Christ Church, Stannington for opening its doors and welcoming residents in need of a warm space. She noted how the community had come together to support each other, particularly those who were living alone, and she thanked those who had offered their support. A Facebook group had also provided useful information, with Cadent giving updates via the group. Mobile food vans had also been arranged to provide hot food for those without gas and to ease the demand on local electricity sub-stations. As residents’ gas supplies were restored, many offered support to those still without gas. Councillor Baker also expressed her thanks to Mr Barrowclough, Headteacher at Forge Valley School, for opening up the school to provide warm showers for those affected by the incident.




In summary, Councillor Baker wished to extend her thanks to local residents and all of the businesses and organisations that had provided support during the incident.




The Chair expressed his thanks to Sheffield City Council for helping and to the North Local Area Committee team who were based in Stannington for two weeks. Sheffield City Council had organised a pre-Christmas party which had allowed many families to celebrate.




Jenny van Tinteren noted that this had been a historic event, and explained that Stannington Library was asking people to pull together their experiences and photos of the incident, which the Library then hoped to compile and archive. She asked that residents contact the library with any contributions.




Councillor Williams noted his thanks Stannington Community Centre for opening their doors and providing meals for vulnerable people.




Councillor Gamble Pugh noted the work that had been carried out by Olivia Blake MP to support those without gas supplies, and that the support provided from across Sheffield had been fantastic. He believed that residents and the community would make their own judgment about whether the payment from Yorkshire Water was proportionate to their suffering and whether profits should be invested into the supply network.