Bio-mess: Eco-homes families left shivering as green heating system fails 50 times

Residents in pioneering '˜green' homes in South Tyneside are angry after being left in the cold for the third year running.

Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 6:53 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th January 2016, 7:09 am
Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. From left Vivien Bracey, Louise Bracey, Julie Douglas, Karen Smith and Rachel Marshall with one year old Lincoln Fail

Families living in 21 properties on Sinclair Meadows, off Western Approach, South Shields, claim the communal bio-fuel heating system has failed more than 50 times over Christmas and New Year – leaving all the homes without heating.

The heating was off again yesterday, and resident Vivien Forrest says engineers believe it could be another month before the boiler is back up and running.

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. Boiler room

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The estate - built in 2014 – has been bit by heating problems for the last three winters.

Miss Forrest said: “In 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 had to live with this for two years as a result of failures with the communal boiler. The development has a beautiful design but the heating has been an absolute disaster and someone must take responsibility for it.

“I had been promised that this situation will be resolved after it happened last year.”

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. Vivien Forrest

The Four Housing Group, which runs the award-winning complex, says it is aware of an “intermittent fault” with the fuel and circulation systems on the biomass boiler system at Sinclair Meadows and are working on a solution.

Sinclair Meadows was the country’s first carbon negative social housing initiative when it was built in 2012.

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

The properties are heated by a communal biomass boiler.

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. Vivien Forrest

Miss Forrest, 67, said she was been forced to move out and live with her children over the Christmas period as a result of the cold.

Tenants are meeting today to discuss the issue.

She added: “I have outlined an number of issues and if the problem continues, we will take legal action.

“The elderly and vulnerable shouldn’t be subject to the cold. I love my home but I can’t take the stress anymore.”

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. Boiler room

Dawn Keightley, group director of operations at Four Housing said: “We are very proud of Sinclair Meadows.

“We are, however, aware of an intermittent fault with the fuel and circulation systems on the biomass boiler system.

“Although residents are not solely reliant on the biomass system for warmth thanks to the super-insulated nature of the homes, we are working closely with our contractors to resolve the issue.

“We will advise residents of expected timescales for completion once this is confirmed.”

She added: “We are currently working on a system modification that will be implemented in the coming weeks.

“We are confident that this, combined with continued support for residents in committing to an eco-lifestyle, will provide a complete solution.”

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. Vivien Forrest

Eco homes have won string of accolades

Sinclair Meadows was the country’s first carbon negative social housing initiative when it was built in 2012.

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

There are 21 houses and apartments in Sinclair Meadows, off Western Approach, South Shields – nine three-bedroom houses and 12 two-bedroom apartments.

The properties are heated by a communal biomass boiler, fed with recycled wood chippings. The homes have also been kitted out with solar panels and also use collected rainwater to flush the toilets.

The complex incorporates a range of eco-features which make the properties as environmentally sustainable as possible and also to ensure that residents benefit from warm and energy-efficient homes.

Four Housing says that, in addition to a package of A-rated energy-efficient white goods in the homes, residents also benefit from low-cost heating, hot water and electricity.

It says that, typically, fuel bills for houses and apartments on Sinclair Meadows are just £692 and £501 per year respectively.

The residents in the homes even underwent auditions to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle before moving in.

The homes have won a string of accolades including the Innovation category in the 2013 Constructing Excellence in the North East Awards and the best new affordable housing scheme section at the Housing Excellence Awards. The homes are designed to wipe out the carbon footprint created by the construction process in less than three years.

They were funded by the Homes and Communities Agency and developed by Four Housing Group in partnership with South Tyneside Council, environmental charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle and Galliford Try Partnerships North.

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. Vivien Forrest