TRADERS have signed a petition calling for compensation from an energy firm after losing thousands of pounds worth of business during a seven-and-a-half hour power cut.

Shops in one half of Wanstead High Street were left in darkness from 7.30am until 3pm on Tuesday after a fault at a substation brought down part of the local electricity grid.

The total estimated cost from lost custom during the power cut is thought to have run into thousands of pounds - piling more pressure on businesses which are still recovering from the recession and the impact on trade of the recent cold snap.

Traders were outraged when electricity firm EDF Energy told them they did not qualify for compensation because the power cut lasted less than 18 hours - and many have now added their names to a petition calling on the company to reverse its decision.

Jacqueline Smith, 66, manager of Rio shoe shop, was one of those affected by the cut.

She said: "It's only right we get compensated.

"It's not just the amount of money we lost, it's the customers who made the journey to visit shops here and turned up to find them closed.

"If people see a shop is closed they might not come back again.

"Who knows how much business has been lost in the long run because of this?

"I spent most of the day in the cold and dark."

Lucy Lesage, 25, manager of Biyoni hairdressers said: "The owners of the shop were livid. I'm sure they'll support this (call for compensation).

"We had all our appointments booked on the computer, so when that went down we couldn't call people to tell them what had happened.

"We stayed here during the day to make sure customers knew what was going on when they arrived.

"We lost alot of custom that day. It's half term so we had lots of bookings."

The petition letter was drafted by Ed Northover, who will stand as the Conservative Party's candidate for Wanstead at the next general election.

He said: "I wanted to try and do something useful to help the local businesses affected as I was so disgusted by of EDF's response.

"As we are approaching an election period, you can bet that a number of politicians will be speaking out on local causes. I at least wanted to do something practical rather than just register my disgust. I will update the local businesses when I receive a response."

A spokesman for EDF said: "We are investing £400million this year in improvement projects on the three power networks we operate in London, the South East and the East of England. This is part of a projected investment of approximately £2billion between 2005 and 2010.

"Regardless of how much we protect, maintain and improve our network, faults will still occur, often due to reasons beyond our control.

"Like all power distribution companies we operate to Guaranteed Standards set by our regulator, Ofgem, which sets the level of payments and when that would apply.

"If there is a breakdown on our network we work hard to get the power back on as quickly as possible. However, if it takes us more than 18 hours to restore power, customers can claim a Guaranteed Standard payment of £50 for a residential customer, or £100 for business customers.

"In 2002, Ofgem introduced another standard for customers who experience repeated interruptions. Under this standard, customers who have experienced four or more power cuts in a year (running from April 1 to the following March 31), each of more than three hours, can claim a £50 payment. The amount under this standard is the same for residential and business customers.

"We are sorry for any business losses incurred during this interruption, but in common with all other UK electricity distribution companys this is always a matter for the customer’s own business insurance.

"If they decide to make a claim our customer relations team would be able to provide the customer with written confirmation of the power cut to give to their insurance company."