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Energy efficiency improvements to homeless accommodation

Energy efficiency improvements to homes used to support homeless people, have been made as part of West Suffolk Council’s programme to cut carbon emissions.

Councillor Gerald Kelly, Cabinet Member for the Environment at West Suffolk Council, with Guy Ransom, commercial director of Finn Geotherm, at one of the sites Copyright: West Suffolk Council

West Suffolk Council recently adopted its new strategic priorities, which include supporting environmental resilience as well as securing more affordable, available and decent homes.

Now, as part of the council’s decarbonisation programme of properties it owns, it has completed work to five of its temporary accommodation sites in and around Brandon, Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Mildenhall. The work also saw energy efficiency improvements to two other housing properties in West Suffolk which are used to provide specialist support to people. The locations of all seven sites are deliberately not being revealed as the council is housing people who could be vulnerable to those who want to target and exploit their situation.

The programme carried out on behalf of the council by renewable heating installer Finn Geotherm, has seen old heating systems at all seven properties replaced with ground and air source heat pumps and new central heating systems, giving people better control over their heating. Solar panels have also been installed at one of the temporary accommodation sites.

All of the sites are being supplied with 100 per cent renewable electricity with the majority of this generated locally from the council’s own solar farm near Lakenheath.

The lighting at the properties has been upgraded to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which are more energy efficient. Insulation works were also carried out to some of the properties where required.

An accommodation officer at one of the temporary accommodation properties said: “Previously we had reoccurring issues with condensation, damp and mould at this one particular property, but since the installation of the new heat pumps we have had no reports of any damp or mould in the flats over this winter period.”

In total, it’s calculated that the works will save 22 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent to flying from London to New York 26 times.

The improvements were paid for using more than £180,000 from the council’s decarbonisation fund. The project was also backed with a grant of just over £41,600 from the Government’s Sustainable Warmth Fund.

Cllr Gerald Kelly, Cabinet Member for the Environment at West Suffolk Council, said: “We have made environmental resilience a strategic priority and cutting the carbon emissions of our own buildings, and improving their energy efficiency to deliver savings on behalf of our taxpayers is just the start. As part of Warm Homes Suffolk, we are working to help improve the energy efficiency of some of the least energy efficient homes in West Suffolk, helping their residents heat their homes for less. We are also keen to support sustainable growth wherever we can, including through the continuing success of Solar for Business which saves business money, cuts carbon emissions and doesn’t cost the businesses anything to install. We will be continuing to look at how we can deliver more of these and other support to our local communities over the weeks and months ahead.”

Cllr Richard O’Driscoll, Cabinet Member for Housing at West Suffolk, said: “We have seen the number of people coming to us for help grow due to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. We have been investing to secure more temporary accommodation and to improve the living standards. We recognise that people in temporary accommodation are already going through a traumatic and challenging time in their lives. While these energy efficiency works will cut carbon and save on costs, they will also improve the living conditions for the people we are supporting while they get back on their feet and we help them overcome financial or other issues so they can secure a new home of their own.”

Guy Ransom, commercial director at Finn Geotherm, who carried out the heat pump installations, said: “We are pleased to complete these important renewable heating installations for West Suffolk Council, which are not only having a huge impact on carbon emissions but also helping to create a warm environment that residents can enjoy living in. The ground and air source heat pumps that we installed are highly energy efficient, and we are delighted to see them delivering heating and hot water for these properties, powered mainly by the council’s own solar farm.”

14 March 2024

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