27 October 2005

27 October 2005

A fair-weather insurance firm

A FED-UP financial advisor whose house was damaged by "freak weather" has hit back at an insurance giant which refused his claim.

Trevor Speid, 43, returned from holiday to find his lounge ceiling and floor damaged by water after his roof leaked.

Neighbours reported torrential rain and an "intense downpour" and golf ball-sized hailstones caused the damage.

But Mr Speid's insurer, Halifax St Andrews, is refusing to pay because weather experts at the Met Office could not confirm the freak storm had happened.

Mr Speid, of Allerford Road, Catford, fears he will have to pay thousands of pounds to remove poisonous asbestos uncovered by the water.

Mr Speid, who is married to Beata, 43, and has a three-year-old daughter Ania, said: "I'm really angry. I returned from holiday on August 28 to find my house had been damaged.

"My neighbours, who are keen gardeners, keep a close eye on the weather and they can both confirm the storm and hail took place.

"But what am I supposed to do if the Met Office can't confirm it? It now looks like the insurers are able to escape paying up, using this absurd loophole.

"If Halifax doesn't pay up, I'm going to have to pay around £5,000 myself."

Halifax does offer an "unlimited sum" to cover full rebuild costs in the event of storm damage to a house.

But the firm will not pay up because the Met Office cannot confirm there were wind gusts of at least 40mph nor that there had been rainfall in excess of 50mm in a 24-hour period.

A Met Office spokesman says that it is impossible to detect every localised weather event. He added convectional storms can produce a lot of rain and hail in a short space of time.

A Halifax spokesman said: "In this instance the damage caused to Mr Speid's property was not covered under his buildings policy as it was due to wear and tear'."

Mr Speid is not the first to have his claim declined following freak weather. In August, the Birmingham Mail reported a lecturer from the University of Birmingham, Dr Kenneth Wardle, initially had his claim declined by Halifax insurance for damaged caused to his house roof by the 120mph tornado.

At the time, Halifax's senior claims manager Martyn Foulds admitted the system used by Halifax did not account for freak weather. The report said the insurer eventually paid up.

Teacher expelled

PARENTS are backing their headteacher, pushed out after her school failed an Ofsted inspection.

Linda Horsfield's 22 years at Athelney Primary School came to an end when Government inspectors visited last month and put it into special measures.

Special measures are required when a school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education.

It also means its management team has not demonstrated it can improve the school and as a result Mrs Horsfield was told she would have to leave the 334-pupil school before the half-term break.

But the move sparked outrage among parents, who gathered outside the school in Athelney Street on Friday to pay tribute to Mrs Horsfield, who they say has done a good job as headteacher.

Parent governor Brian Tollom said: "If she can't turn the school around after 22 years who else can?

"She should have been given the opportunity.

"Lewisham education department has torn the heart out of this school."

In a letter to parents, Mrs Horsfield said: "It is no secret I do not want to leave.

"It is going to be an enormous wrench on Friday. I am going to miss you all so much.

"But together with the staff you now need to look to the future for the sake of the children."

Parent Michelle Cordina, 33, of Ravensbourne Road, Bromley, said: "We are livid. How can they remove a teacher and not tell us why?

"The children are going to be deeply affected and the school is going to fall apart."

Another parent, Andrew Miles, said: "We think she's doing a great job. She should have been given the chance to turn it around."

Despite passing an Ofsted inspection in 1999, inspectors criticised the school for failing to identify potential weaknesses early enough.

These weaknesses included lack of guidance for teachers as well as support for high-achieving pupils.

A report to governors last week from Chris Threlfall, the council's head of school effectiveness, stated "the persons responsible for leading the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvements in the school".

Lewisham Council says Mrs Horsfield has not been sacked but confirmed Irene Cleaver, a former acting headteacher from Hither Green Primary, will be taking over after half-term.

A spokesman said: "Continuing the education of the children at Athelney School is our priority.

"We are confident together with the support of parents we will be able to raise standards in the school."

Centenary event for popular library

A HOST of literary figures joined bookworms to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a popular library.

Novelist turned scriptwriter Catherine Johnson visited Crofton Park Library, Brockley Road, Brockley, to mark its centenary.

Mrs Johnson spoke to pupils from Crofton Park School about her work, before the children settled down to hear some entertaining yarns from storyteller Sandra Agard.

The library has also joined forces with nearby schools to donate hundreds of books to schools in Grenada, which were badly hit by last year's hurricane.

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock, who attended the celebrations on Friday, paid tribute to the library, saying it has "enriched countless lives" during its hundred years.

Hooligans facing further charges

THREE hooligans banned from football grounds across the country have been arrested after they were allegedly caught watching an England game.

Nicky Harcourt, of Bramdean Crescent, Lee; Terry Turner, of Finland Road, Brockley, and Dean Brooks, of Broad Walk, Kidbrooke, were charged with breaching their football banning orders.

The trio allegedly ignored their bans to attend the England versus Northern Ireland World Cup qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast, on September 7.

They were arrested after a series of swoops across south London last week by the Met Police's football intelligence unit Operation Gallium.

Harcourt, aged 19, and Turner, aged 20, will appear at Greenwich Magistrates' Court on Friday.

Brooks, aged 25, appeared before Woolwich magistrates yesterday.

Two thousand sign against school

NEARLY two thousand people have lodged objections to a new school being built on Ladywell Leisure Centre.

Their signatures were collected by Save Ladywell Pool protesters and the New School Campaign in just five days over the summer.

They were submitted to Lewisham council by campaign leaders - Max Calo and John Hamilton - last Wednesday.

The new school in Lewisham High Street would cater for 600 pupils aged 11 to 16. It is scheduled to open in September 2009.

Campaigners from the New School Campaign want a school in the far north of the borough where they believe need is greatest. In their objections they said there was no groundswell of support for a new school in central Lewisham but in the north there was.

They said parents in the east of the borough - among those served by the new Ladywell school - were often happy to send their children to Greenwich schools.

The New School Campaign's objections also stated: "The Local Education Authority has not published any race or social impact assessment to support the decision."

Campaigners believe a new school in the far north of the borough would widen access for black children to good quality education.

A council spokeswoman said: "We have taken into account the needs of all children, as well as our ability to deliver a high quality school that will serve the needs of a diverse community.

"Every alternative site has been considered at length. Ladywell, with its transport routes, location and current ownership, is the best."

The objections will be passed to the school organisation committee, which is due to make a final decision in the next three months.

Art news: botany illustration course

AN ARTIST and qualified botanist is inviting people to join a botanical illustration course which starts next week.

Students are taught to explore a range of styles and will also learn about botany. All the plants and drawing materials are provided.

Artist Alison Day who runs the course said: "We will study the form and composition of native and local species.

"This is a good opportunity to build a portfolio, produce drawings for other art disciplines as well as explore a new art form."

She says the 10-week course helps build up abilities and experience but people are also welcome to attend one-off sessions as a taster.

The course starts on October 31, 1.30pm to 3.30pm, at the Lewisham Arthouse, Lewisham Way, New Cross, 10-week course £80/£70 concs, call for single session prices, 020 8694 9011.

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