No compensation after Morecambe and Lancaster power cuts

Staff and customers in the Royal Bar in Morecambe during the blackout.
Staff and customers in the Royal Bar in Morecambe during the blackout.

An electricity firm has refused to pay compensation to victims of power cuts in the Lancaster and Morecambe district.

Around 55,000 customers in Lancashire, mainly in the Lancaster and Morecambe district, and 13,000 in Cumbria lost power when an electricity substation flooded during December’s severe weather of Storm Desmond, and 22,000 applied for goodwill payments.

But Electricity North West described the storm as “exceptional circumstances” and said they had not fallen below required standards.

The announcement on Tuesday came days after the firm set up a team to handle possible claims.

Martin Deehan, Electricity North West Operations Director, said: “In cases of severe storms such as this, only customers without power continuously for 48 hours - starting when we can access our equipment - automatically qualify for payments.

“Having now analysed each claim, and thanks to the monumental effort of our engineers in extremely difficult circumstances, we do not believe that we have fallen below this standard.

“I understand that this is not the news that many had hoped for, and I apologise that due to the large number of enquiries, and the subsequent bad weather throughout the North West during December, it has taken us longer than we would have liked to get back to customers.

“We will be writing to each customer who has made a claim so that they can use our letter as evidence to claim for any losses as a result of the power cut through their insurance company.”

The firm received 22,000 applications for compensation from customers in Lancashire and Cumbria.

Many people in the district lost power on the evening of Saturday, December 5 as Storm Desmond struck and some parts of the Lancaster area were flooded.

Engineers were unable to access the Caton Road substation to begin repairs until 9.30am on Sunday, December 6.

Power was restored on the morning of Monday, December 7 although supplies were later lost again due to damage caused by the flood water to equipment inside the substation.

Many homes were without electricity again until Tuesday morning, December 8.

Electricity North West said power was restored to all possible properties within 48 hours excluding those which were flooded and could not have power restored for safety reasons.

There were intermittent power cuts over the ensuing days as engineers worked day and night to reconnect homes from temporary generators back onto the grid.

Electricity North West said flood defences at Lancaster’s main substation on Caton Road had been upgraded with a £500k investment in 2010 to withstand a one in 100 year flood but these were breached by the floods of December 5.

A spokesman for Electricity North West originally said last week: “The team will respond to the applications that have been received so far and proactively contact those customers known to have been impacted in line with the standards. We expect to begin making payments to eligible customers later this month and this process will be completed within three months.”

Electricity North West’s terms and conditions state they have to restore supply within a certain time period during large-scale weather events. This period is not stipulated, though, as it is calculated using a formula based on the number of customers affected.