Ashley Court fire residents win refunds after Grant Shapps support

Grant Shapps Ashley Court

MP Grant Shapps (left) and councillor Peter Hebden at Ashley Court. - Credit: Ross Crabtree

Residents of an assisted living facility in Hatfield who were forced to leave their homes due to an electrical fire have received refunds for unfair service charges after support from MP Grant Shapps.

In December 2020, 22 residents of Ashley Court, many of whom are vulnerable and require care, were evacuated after a fire at the building off Wellfield Road, with many moved into temporary accommodation.

During this time, they were billed £225 per month in service charges for housing they had and could not occupy, with fees including scheme manager and caretaker costs.

A year on from the fire, Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps wrote to Sanctuary Housing, the housing association responsible for managing Ashley Court, raising concerns about the charges.

A fire broke out at Ashley Court in Hatfield. Picture: Alan Davies

The fire at Ashley Court in December 2020. - Credit: Archant

Despite initially refusing to waive the monthly fees, a second letter in February this year led to an apology from Sanctuary who agreed to refund the money to residents after getting their ‘approach wrong’.

The association also said it would refund payments for deceased residents to their respective estates.

“This is a great result for the residents of Ashley Court, and I’m incredibly happy to have been part of the effort to facilitate it,” said Mr Shapps.

“This is a step forward for the residents, and I’m sure that our meeting with Sanctuary Housing will yield further results.

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“Putting residents in such an unfair situation was unacceptable, so I’m hoping that this outcome will go some way to putting their minds at ease.”

Peter Hebden, councillor for Hatfield East and mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, has also worked to support residents.

He is pleased that Sanctuary have refunded residents and is optimistic other issues will now be resolved.

“This is a fantastic step forward for the residents,” he said.

“There are other issues to be resolved but if Sanctuary Housing are adopting a new resident-focussed stance then I’m a lot more optimistic.”

Sanctuary Housing have also confirmed that they will be conducting a review into the unfair treatment of resident and will apologies at an in-person meeting with Mr Shapps this month.