Fuel poverty campaigners celebrate heating replacement

Hundreds of Falkirk residents will get their heating systems replaced after campaigning against astronomical bills.

Fuel poverty campaigners celebrate heating replacement Getty Images
Falkirk residents will receive new heating infrastructure.

Hundreds of residents living in the Falkirk area will get their heating systems replaced after a community campaign raised awareness of the astronomically high bills they were paying.

Falkirk Council has agreed to work with an energy supplier to install new infrastructure at 667 properties in the Braes area affected by outdated heating systems.

The announcement comes after families in the area said extortionate bills charged by Scottish Power were forcing them to choose between heating their homes and buying food, with some paying in excess of £100 per week on pre-paid electrical meters.

Scottish Power discovered the out of date wet electric systems in the area meant some households were using three times the amount of energy than the national average.

Claire Mackie and Fiona Gordon spearheaded a campaign called Forgotten Villages that called for the dated heating systems to be replaced across the Falkirk council area.

There had been fears the coronavirus pandemic would halt progress for the campaign but today’s announcement came as a welcome surprise.

More than 600 homes in Slammanan, California, Avonbridge and Whitecross will now have access to mains gas.

Meanwhile, work continues to see if a similar upgrade is possible in Limerigg, Letham, Standburn and Blackness.

If not, the campaign group has been assured an alternative heating system will be fitted that will save around 100 other households at least 30% on their bills.

In a statement Ms Mackie and Ms Gordon said: “We are absolutely delighted by today’s announcement and look forward to bringing more good news in the future.

“This is a life-changing announcement. Thank you to everyone who has done interviews and supported the campaign to get us to this point.

“The campaign against Scottish Power continues and we strive to ensure they take accountability for this fuel poverty crisis.

“We want to thank Falkirk Council for working with the campaign group, conducting research and arriving at the right resolution.”

Falkirk Council said it formed an action plan earlier this year to address a number of issues raised by tenants in off-gas communities.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “Despite the current pandemic we have successfully completed all of the tasks and can now move on to a new phase, which will deliver a programme of replacement heating in these areas.

“Consultants were engaged to undertake an option appraisal regarding alternative heating systems. The consultants have concluded that work and it has been identified that installation of gas supply to 4 areas (Avonbridge; California; Slamannan; Whitecross) represents the best value option to the Council. These areas cover nearly 90% of Council tenants in off gas areas.

“We now need to engage Scottish Gas Networks to undertake the installations and also get timeframes and a programme of work in place.

“We will carry out more detailed work on alternative options for the other localities.”