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‘Planned maintenance’ means troubled Rainham estate will be without water again for six hours on Thursday

PUBLISHED: 16:03 17 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:03 17 October 2017

A block of flats within the Orchard Village estate, Rainham. Picture: Google Maps

A block of flats within the Orchard Village estate, Rainham. Picture: Google Maps

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Orchard Village residents will be without running water for the second time in a month this week as engineers carry out “planned maintenance” work.

Last month, the troubled Rainham estate, run by Circle Housing, was left without heat or drinking water for 23 hours after a power failure caused a fault to develop with the estate’s water pumps, prompting Rainham MP John Cruddas to once again blast the estate operators “consistent failures”.

A number of residents have since received letters telling them they will once again be without heating or running water for six hours while more maintenance work is carried out on Thursday.

Colin Nickless, chairman of the Orchard Village Residents’ Association, told the Recorder the news had further angered long-suffering residents on the estate.

“The reality of the situation is, the estate’s water supply is pumped into an energy centre which also controls the estate’s power and heat, and if that loses power then everyone loses their drinking water,” he told the Recorder.

“There are vulnerable people going without drinking water for hours and no one is being held accountable.”

Mr Nickless claims that any complaints about the power and water outages from residents are met by Circle Housing, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Essex and Suffolk Water all claiming they are not responsible.

“The problem with that is that A - the energy centre is seriously unreliable. It keeps breaking down and seems to need constant maintenance.

“And B – it is ridiculously expensive. A study commissioned by Leeds University and Fuel Poverty Action found it was the most expensive heating system in the country.

“There are people on this estate that this winter will have to make the choice to heat or to eat – that’s how expensive our heating charge is.”

In September last year, he also asked the energy ombudsman to investigate utility costs on the estate.

And in June, a further row broke out after the Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into claims an online brochure had deliberately misled residents about the price of their energy bills.

A Circle Housing spokeswoman confirmed Orchard Village residents are locked into a 25-year contract for the supply of heat and hot water and cannot change supplier.

Mr Nickless added: “Residents are locked in to these contracts paying more than they were told they would be, and there is no infrastructure in place for anyone to be able to change their energy providers.”

A Circle Housing spokeswoman confirmed the work on Thursday was “planned maintenance” being carried out by SSE, which had written to customers directly.

However, a spokeswoman for SSE said the company had no knowledge of the upcoming works, and advised the Recorder to contact Essex and Suffolk Water.

Essex and Suffolk Water was unable to confirm the nature of the work being undertaken this week.

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