Angry residents left in the cold as eco-homes’ heating fails for 50th time

Vivien Forrest is unhappy with the number of times the biomass boiler which heats Sinclair Meadows has broken down.
Vivien Forrest is unhappy with the number of times the biomass boiler which heats Sinclair Meadows has broken down.

Angry residents at an award-winning ‘green’ estate in South Tyneside are furious after their heating system has failed yet again.

Despite assurances from site managers about the eco-friendly communal heating system, residents in Sinclair Meadows, South Shields, say it broke down again at lunchtime on Tuesday, was repaired by 4pm, but went off again by 7pm and remained off all day yesterday.

Engineers were again at the site last night.

One resident, Vivien Forrest, 67, said: “We had a new part installed last week and we were told that should solve issues. We had a functioning boiler for a whole week this time, but on Tuesday it went off again.

“Despite assurances and platitudes, this whole place is a farce.”

Families living in 21 properties on the estate, off Western Approach, claimed the communal bio-fuel heating system had failed more than 50 times over Christmas and New Year.

The estate – built in 2014 and run by Durham-based housing association The Four Housing Group – has been hit by heating problems for the last three winters.

Miss Forrest, 67, said: “I find it distressing to talk about. It is ridiculous we are still having to cope without the heating on.

“During the two weeks to Christmas it went off around 20 times and, from Christmas Eve to New Year, it has gone off another 30 times.

“We’ve been here many times before, it gets fixed and then it’s off again, so I’m not overly optimistic.”

Dawn Keightley, group director of operations at Four Housing said: “We are aware that the bio-mass boiler at Sinclair Meadows is currently down and engineers are on site dealing with the issue.

“We are awaiting an update regarding the nature of the fault and the timescales for the repair.

“The intermittent bio-mass boiler fault is something that we at Four Housing are taking very seriously and we appreciate that the level of call-outs is simply not acceptable.

“We are continuing to work closely with the contractor to find a long-term solution to rectify the source of the problem, which we hope to have some clarity on in the near future.

“We are very frustrated that a scheme in which we have made considerable investment in is having these repeated problems.

“It is disappointing that the Sinclair Meadows could become known for the boiler failure rather than leading the way in addressing fuel poverty for tenants.”

Sinclair Meadows was the country’s first carbon-negative social housing initiative.

The design was a pioneering move by Four Housing, with claims that residents would enjoy some of the lowest energy bills in the country.