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Residents welcome free energy saving measures

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Published by Craig Downs for Keepmoat in Housing and also in Communities

From left front; Nik Turner, Vela Head of Property; Jonathan Horner, Keepmoat Construction manager; Keith Moulder, Vela Investment manager and Gill Sweeney, Keepmoat Lead Resident Liaison officer, Back row Marsh House Avenue residents Norma Dickinson and From left front; Nik Turner, Vela Head of Property; Jonathan Horner, Keepmoat Construction manager; Keith Moulder, Vela Investment manager and Gill Sweeney, Keepmoat Lead Resident Liaison officer, Back row Marsh House Avenue residents Norma Dickinson and

Residents of an estate in Billingham are enjoying warmer homes and reduced heating and electricity bills after receiving free energy saving measures to their properties.

Community regeneration specialist Frank Haslam Milan (FHM) North East, part of Keepmoat, has helped residents in Billingham to access the Government’s Community Energy Saving Programme.

Under the scheme, which aims to make homes more energy efficient, residents can take advantage of free solid wall insulation, cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and boiler replacements, subject to survey.

FHM North East has worked in partnership with EDF Energy, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and social landlord Vela on the project, which has seen works carried out to 200 properties.

FHM North East has also been able to take on one new apprentice to help deliver the scheme with a further 10 jobs created and 27 safeguarded as a result of the works.

Qualifying properties were targeted as part of a marketing campaign to make residents aware of the scheme and for one Billingham resident, the energy efficiency measures couldn’t have come at a better time.

Michelle and Andrew Austin of Marsh House Avenue have lived in their property for eight years.  Michelle said: “I couldn’t believe it when FHM called and said I could have free loft and external wall insulation to make our home more insulated. The house has also been rendered and finished with a silicone coat.

“I’ve noticed the difference already. Friends have been saying they’ve been having the heating on because the summer has been so cool but I haven’t needed to. I’d really recommend this scheme to other residents. It really isn’t too good to be true.”

For pensioner Norma Dickinson who also lives in Marsh House Avenue, it’s meant she’s finally been able to get the gas central heating system she’s always wanted. Her home has also undergone external wall insulation, rendering and painting.

Norma said: “I’m a pensioner but still work and am on the minimum wage. There’s no way I could have afforded a gas central heating system without this scheme. The programme has meant I’ve been able to get rid of my old storage heaters and emersion heater and replace it with a modern, energy efficient combi boiler. The money I’ve saved means I can do other things I need to do on the house.”

She added: “FHM have done a beautiful job. The workmen were fantastic; the standard of work was excellent and they caused me no problems and didn’t leave any mess. And none of it has cost me a penny. I’m really looking forward to seeing the savings on my energy bills as well.”

In addition to helping residents save money on their current energy bills and improve the efficiency of their homes, the programme has also created apprenticeship opportunities.

Richard Wood (18) from Durham was looking for work after leaving school and found it difficult to find a job.  Keepmoat’s contractor, Rend Tech offered Richard an apprenticeship in April and he hasn’t looked back since.

He is working as a boarder on the properties that are undergoing external wall insulation and said: “I have learned lots since I started working here and I am very grateful to Rend Tech for giving me the opportunity of serve my apprenticeship and learn the skills needed.  I am learning every day and this experience will help me when applying for work in the future.

Lead Resident Liaison Officer, Gill Sweeny from Keepmoat has been overseeing the project with residents.

Gill said: “The take up of the programme has been very successful. Local residents have benefitted from warmer, more energy efficient homes and cheaper energy bills. But the programme has also enabled Keepmoat to create and sustain local job opportunities.

“The work we have undertaken has also involved us working with the local school to carry out safety talks to the pupils and we have held poster competitions to reiterate the importance of not climbing on scaffolding.

Jonathan Horner, Construction Manager from Keepmoat said, “The Government recognises that insulating cavity walls, lofts and solid walls is a cost effective way to reduce energy usage.  A home that is well insulted needs less heating to keep it warm so the aim of the campaign was to target homes that are difficult to heat. There are of course the obvious environmental benefits as well - from reduced carbon emissions.

“Residents who have had one or a number of improvements made to their homes will not only see substantial savings on their heating bills for many years but will also potentially see an increase in the value of their property.”

Some of the green measures installed are known to save hundreds of pounds on energy bills such as solid wall insulation which can not only keep up to 45% of heat generated within the home but also save the homeowner up to £450 per year.

Nicola Turner, Vela’s Head of Property Services said: “By working closely with FHM and EDF Energy we have ensured that we were able to complete additional improvements works to 110 of our non-traditional properties by maximising funding available through the Community Energy Saving Programme.

“This was utilised alongside our initial improvement budgets. This scheme is just one of our many projects which will see us spend over £100 million on investment and improvement works over the next five years.”

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