Eco-homes tenants still angry as green biomas heating system failures continue

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.

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Residents at pioneering eco-homes in South Tyneside say their heating system has continued to malfunction despite assurances from their landlords.

The Sinclair Meadows Estate, off Western Approach, South Shields, was built in 2014 and is heated by a communal biomass boiler as part of its ‘green’ ethos – but in has been hit by heating problems for the last three winters.

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the  biomass boiler has broken down.
From left Louise Bracey,  Vivien Forrest, Julie Douglas and Karen Smith

Sinclair Meadows residents are angry over eco estate are unhappy about the numerous times the biomass boiler has broken down. From left Louise Bracey, Vivien Forrest, Julie Douglas and Karen Smith

Bosses at The Four Housing Group, who manage the estate, said they are dealing with the issues but residents claim the heating has gone off three times already this year – January 23, 30 and 31.

Resident Vivien Forrest, 67, said: “Despite all the promises, we are still in the same situation.

“We were promised it would be up and running but it looks like it is going to take more time. The back-up gas boiler is still not there. Gas pipes have been laid but nothing else is on the estate.”

She added: “For over three years we haven’t had a system we can rely on. Are we going to have to rely on a gas boiler as a back-up when the whole point of this estate was to move away from fossil fuels?”

Residents claim the heating system failed more than 50 times over Christmas and New Year.

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.

Dawn Keightley, group director of operations at Four Housing, said: “We can confirm that our engineers did attend to the heating system on 23, 30 and 31 January after residents reported that the fault beacon located outside of the boiler room was flashing.

“The beacon acts as an alert. However, it does not always mean that the boiler is not providing heating or hot water. On each occasion an engineer attended within four hours and confirmed the biomass boiler had turned off, however because of the response times there was no loss of heating or hot water to the customers due to residual heat circulating in the system.”

She added: “The intermittent biomass 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 share residents’ frustrations and are working closely with the contractor to find a long-term solution, part of which is the installation of the gas back up system.

“We are in the process of arranging that installation and will be speaking to tenants soon to advise on timescales. The new system is a priority and we will ensure this work is carried out as soon as possible.”

Residents were also concerned over who will be paying for the gas boiler when it is put in, but have been assured the installation cost for the back-up system will be borne by Four Housing.

Ms Keightley added: “Given the nature of biomass fuelled systems, it has been designed to have a series of back-up systems in the event of failure or maintenance.

“Gas systems are commonly installed as a back up. However, the biomass 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.”