Fear for safety after gas pipe leak exposed

UNDERGROUND gas leaks from a street in Hampstead have left residents worried for their safety. People living in West Heath Road say an iron gas pipe under their street has been leaking steadily for the past 30 years

Tan Parsons

UNDERGROUND gas leaks from a street in Hampstead have left residents worried for their safety.

People living in West Heath Road say an iron gas pipe under their street has been leaking steadily for the past 30 years.

They are worried there could be an explosion if the pipe is not replaced urgently.


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National Grid, which owns the pipe, says the situation is safe but admits the pipe has faulty joints. The company has carried out roadworks four times in as many months to try to stop the leaks. It has also drilled holes into the pavement above the pipe so gas can escape without building up underground.

Rodney Joseph, who lives in West Heath Road, said: "I always walk along the road to get to the Heath and there is often a really strong smell of gas. If you lit a match above one of these little holes you could probably cook something over the flame - but I'm not going to try it.

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"I'm concerned there's a real possibility that there could be a build-up of gas in the basement of one the buildings in this area or under this street and that there could be an explosion."

Mr Joseph, who is retired, has lived in the area for more than 30 years and he says that since the start of the year the leaks from the pipe have been worse than ever.

A fortnight ago the road was dug up again, revealing the pipe causing all the trouble.

"I couldn't believe the size of it when they dug up the road - it's huge. If a car crashed and fell into the hole you'd have Armageddon," said Mr Joseph.

"It's also a ludicrous waste of public money for them to keep digging up the ground and doing all these roadworks. They should just dig it up and replace the pipe once and for all."

Another problem is the number of lorries that currently park along the pavement, carrying materials for building projects in the surrounding roads. Residents fear the heavy loads could damage the pipe even more.

Among the other buildings in the affected area are the Culture Section of the Chinese Embassy and the Grade II-listed Schreiber House.

A spokeswoman for National Grid denied the public was in any danger from the leaking pipe and said repair work to seal it was due to start on Tuesday.

"The main itself is sound - it is the joints that leak. We are carrying out mains spraying - where we put a sealant on the inside of the pipe this week. We hope it will solve the problem and we will be checking to see that it has," said the spokeswoman.

She added that the amount of gas escaping from the holes in the pavement was too small to pose a danger. "There is no danger here, especially as this is a low pressure gas main," she said.

"But obviously, you wouldn't want to drop a cigarette there."

This is not the first time residents in the area have been faced with gas leaks. In August 2007 houses in Falloden Way in Hampstead Garden Suburb needed safety checks when a gas main cracked. It led to a scare when the supply to an abandoned property started leaking.

Resident David Willis said at the time: "The smell was appalling. If someone had dropped a cigarette in the wrong place it would have been goodbye for us."

Speaking about the latest scare, a Camden Council spokeswoman said: "If, as in this case, there appears to be an ongoing issue regarding the performance of the gas main the council will speak to the owners National Grid and request that they investigate the issues and consider whether it is necessary to upgrade the pipe."

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk

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