Gas boiler row over eco-homes: Housing bosses cave in to fossil fuels as biomass heating system fails

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

Residents living in pioneering South Tyneside eco-homes will have to revert back to fossil fuel to stay warm.

Families who live in 21 properties in Sinclair Meadows, off Western Approach, South Shields, are fed up of their communal bio-fuel heating system failing, and housing bosses are fitting a back-up gas boiler to solve the recurring problem.

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

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

Residents claim the heating system failed more than 50 times over Christmas and New Year – leaving all the homes without heating – and on Tuesday the system was down again.

The estate – built in 2014 – has been hit by heating problems for the last three winters, and resident Vivien Forrest and her neighbours say they are at their wits’ end.

Bosses at The Four Housing Group, have revealed they will now be resorting to a back-up gas-fired boiler if the biomass system fails again in the future – a prospect which is worrying residents.

Miss Forrest, 67, said: “We’ve been here many times before, it gets fixed and then it’s off again.

As to how long it will last we shall just have to wait and see.

Vivien Forrest

“But I am worried about the prospect of having to resort to a gas boiler. Surely this defeats the purpose of being eco friendly?

“We have been assured we won’t end up with gas bills, but who will foot the bill if we end up having to rely on the gas system all of the time?”

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.

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

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

Bosses say that even with the back-up gas system residents should still receive bills as low as £360 per year, and environmental standards will still be maintained.

Dawn Keightley, group director of operations at Four Housing, said: “As residents are aware we are working towards the installation of an improved back-up heating system in the form of gas fired boilers, which will be up and running in the near future.

“Gas systems are commonly installed as a bio-mass back up system. The bio-mass boiler will continue to be the prime heat source at Sinclair Meadows. The move will help to mitigate any future downtime, while maintaining the environmental standards that the scheme is founded upon.

“Residents will continue to benefit from very low fuel bills, we are seeing annual fuel and electricity bills on Sinclair Meadows being as low as £360 per year averaging out at £30 per month.

“As is currently the case, residents will continue to be billed for the heat they use and we don’t envisage that these costs will increase as a result of the alternative back-up system.”