Heartbreak for farmers

Heartbroken farmers who watched 35 baby lambs die of cold because there was no electricity for their incubator lamps are demanding answers from the power company which left them cut off for three days.

Sylvia Bright and her family watched helplessly as 75 per cent of the 50 lambs they had brought in from the cold in last week’s snowstorm died one by one.

And Mrs Bright is angry because they could have been saved if Electricity North West had told them during the course of 16 increasingly frantic phone calls that the delay would be that long – instead of promising each time that the power would be restored in the next few hours.

The pedigree lambs had been brought indoors at Blake Edge Farm, Tom Thorn, on the outskirts of Buxton, at 4am when the snowstorm arrived, and the power went off during the thunder and lightning which followed.

“The weather had been nice and they were turned out with their mums,” said Mrs Bright. “It came on so quickly, and they were out at 4am fetching them in.

“All we had was a camping gas stove and we were filling kettle after kettle to keep the lambs warm,” said Mrs Bright, who witnessed her husband and son’s reaction to the death of the lambs – raised as valuable breeding stock.

“They were crying as they watched the life drain out of a lamb that they had been at the birth of and had nurtured,” she said.

“You can’t imagine it unless you are there to watch it.”

Adding to the frustration was the belief that they knew it would only be a quick job to restore the power.

None of their neighbours was off-line because they could see their lights, and when an engineer came on Friday afternoon, all that was needed was a replacement fuse.

“They had us off power for three whole days when the actual job took 30 seconds,” said Sylvia.

“If they’d said we were going to be off for three days, we’d have prepared ourselves and got a generator in, but they kept moving the goalposts.”

An electricity board operator offered them £120 in compensation, but the lambs are worth on average £500 each because they are prime breeding stock.

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham has asked Mrs Bright for full details of the incident so that he can pursue her case with the company.

Andy Smith, Electricity North West response manager, said: “I apologise to all customers for the delay in restoring their power following the severe weather last week.

“Our engineers worked round the clock in very difficult conditions to restore supplies to all 4,500 homes affected as quickly as possible.

“Our team also handled more than 5,500 calls over the three days and provided the most up-to-date information available throughout the repair work.

“We have contacted the owner of the farm and offered compensation for their loss and again apologise for the difficulties that customers faced as a result of the extreme weather.”