The Brighton and Hove residents living the green dream

13th November, 2013

Brighton and Hove’s credentials as the only city with a Green MP and the only city with a Green council are well known

But unfortunately these two facts do not make the city an instant environmental utopia.

Like other cities, Brighton and Hove suffers from the effects of polluted air.

And its high percentage of old housing stock means it suffers poor rates of energy efficiency.

About 66% of city homes were built before 1945, compared to 42% in England and Wales.

As a result, housing contributes 42% to the city’s carbon footprint – compared with the national average of 28%.

Meanwhile 13,800 households are in fuel poverty, meaning they cannot afford to adequately heat their homes.

Councillor Bill Randall, chairman of the city council’s Housing Committee, said: “Far too many private sector residents in Brighton and Hove live in fuel poverty and their number is increasing remorselessly as fuel costs rise.

“Poorly insulated, their homes leak energy and CO2 just like a sieve.”

So in order to redress the balance, the Green Deal was created, offering to improve energy efficiency in homes, with newboilers, cavity wall insulation and loft insulation.

It is hoped 14 million UK households will take up the offer longterm.

But after its launch in January 2013, not a single home in Brighton and Hove has had the work completed.

One initiative to try and encourage take-up is the council’s Green Deal Pioneer Places scheme.

Ten residents have had up to £10,000-worth of free Green Deal energy improvements to their homes.

Work included external wall insulation — which wraps the outside of the building in a layer of heat-saving insulation — new boilers, low energy lighting and loft insulation.

The scheme was a partnership with the Green Building Partnership, Low Carbon Trust and Brighton and Hove 10:10, an independent campaign to cut carbon by 10% each year.

Flemmich Webb, chairman of Brighton and Hove 10:10, said: “This project shows that once again Brighton and Hove is one of the leading cities in the country when it comes to delivering innovative energy efficiency projects.

But we’re not stopping here.

“Brighton and Hove has some of the least energy efficient housing stock in the country, so we will continue to look for funding to carry on with our work.”

Mr Randall added: “By working closely with key city partners to identify and embrace national schemes and grants as well as close work with key city partners, we’re determined to improve residents’ homes, tackle fuel poverty and reduce CO2 emissions.

“This latest initiative shows how we can cut fuel poverty and tackle carbon emissions by working together.”

In a separate scheme, 60 hardup households will receive free home improvements to make them warmer and cheaper to heat.

Any tenant or homeowner aged above 60, with a disability or longterm health condition, or a lowincome family can apply to have the improvement done.

It follows a successful bid by Brighton and Hove City Council for the £410,000 government funding.

While free offers are a good way of publicising efficiency measures, the Green Deal will need to become more attractive to improve its take-up.

With interest on the loans between 6% and 7%, councillors want to see something more akin to the German model were interest rates are 1% to 2%.

Greg Barker, minister for energy and climate change and MP for Bexhill and Battle, defended the scheme, which he has pledged will make 14 million British homes warmer and cheaper to heat.

He said: “The Green Deal is an ambitious and uniquely longterm programme designed to upgrade the energy efficiency of Britain’s homes.

“It’s only just getting started, but the early signs are encouraging.

“It will take time as this brand new market finds its legs, but I now expect the number of plans signed to start steadily rising.”

Cllr Bill Randall said: “With so little funding put aside for the scheme and cuts to grants in favour of high interest loans, it’s no surprise to most that take-up has been so low.

The Argus spoke to some of the ten lucky householders who benefited from the free improvements.

TOM DALLOWAY, who lives with his partner in Uplands Road, said: “We couldn’t believe it until the work started.

"We’ve had the boiler replaced and cavity wall insulation. It was all done within five days, it was really quick.

“We’re definitely expecting to save money over the winter. We have an A+ rating so we expect significant savings. Our friends are very envious.

“I don’t see how the scheme cannot work. If you can get the improvements and pay for them through your energy bills it seems reasonable.”

SARAH MANSFIELD-OSBOURNE, lives in Mile Oak Road with her partner and two young sons and had a new boiler, cavity wall insulation and loft insulation.

She said: “It’s great now that it’s been done. The boiler’s been much more efficient. We’re not sure how much we’ll be saving but hope it will be significant.

“We wouldn’t have been able to afford everything we had done without this project, especially not the boiler.

“With the loft insulation we thought we’d lose storage space but we’ve got a new system where they cover the insulation with a mesh which means you don’t lose any space.”

TERRY CONWAY, who lives in a Queens Park Victorian terrace with his wife had outer wall insulation. 

He said: “My mother’s mantra was ‘waste not, want not’ and that’s something I’ve tried to live up to.

“We’re looking to reap the full benefits particularly at the rear of the house. When it’s blowing a gale it takes the full impact of severe weather.

“It’s like a brand-new house. The only difference is it’s a little bit prouder and the windows are a little bit deeper, but from the front you wouldn’t notice the difference.

“The amount of people that stopped and stared when it was being fitted has been phenomenal.”

DAVID HAINES, of Newport Street, said: “When I moved in three years ago the house was very cold and difficult to heat, because warmth dispersed very quickly.

“I was very pleased to be part of the scheme and it was very satisfying to be part of eco open houses. I had 47 people round, with a lot of interest.

“I’ve had insulation on the inside of the front and insulation on the outside at the rear.

“When it comes to winter I’m hoping for a big improvement in fuel consumption.

“I’ve even had my sash windows double-glazed. A lot of people were very interested in them, because they don’t look that different.

“I’ve always been interested in being more green, the difficulty is getting impartial advice and knowing what’s possible.”

Source:  The Argus

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