�800k council home revamp for hundreds of Norwich families

Hundreds of council house tenants in Norwich are to have their homes revamped at a cost of thousands of pounds so they can save money on their heating bills - and even more families could benefit in the future.

Norwich City Council last night agreed to join forces with British Gas for a deal which will see more than �800,000 pumped into improving the energy efficiency of homes.

The cash injection will mean families will get improved loft, cavity wall and outside wall insulation and new gas boilers in their homes thanks to the tie up.

Across Bowthorpe, almost 200 homes will get better loft insulation, 171 will get brand new boilers, 40 will get new wall insulation and two homes will get new PvC windows, with more than 300 families expected to benefit.

The deal was agreed by the city council's cabinet last night in a last minute addition to the agenda, with a decision needed quickly to ensure the council did not miss out on the chance to cut carbon emissions and slash fuel bills for families.

Under the deal, British Gas has agreed to put in �332,000 for the scheme through the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP), while the city council will contribute about �480,000.

The CESP project was created as part of the government's Home Energy Saving Programme, which requires gas and electricity suppliers and electricity generators to provide energy saving measures to families in specific low income areas the country.

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The scheme has been designed to cover as many properties as possible in defined areas and British Gas has been allocated the Bowthorpe area under it.

But a deal needed to be agreed quickly as the money is only available if the work is completed by March next year.

Victoria MacDonald, cabinet member for housing at Norwich City Council, said: 'This will allow us to deliver loft, cavity and external wall insulation, as well as boilers, to a large number of houses in Norwich.

'The idea is that, if we work quickly, we will be able to team up with British Gas and we want to make sure we do not miss out on this opportunity.

'We have spoken to Geoff Lowe, the chairman of the CityWide Tenants Board, who is completely behind it. The idea is to pick the properties which are most in need.

'We have done some retrofitting in the city already, which has been very successful and anything we can do to help and protect people, particularly when it comes to fuel bills is to be welcomed.'

And it emerged that other families in Norwich could benefit from a similar cash injection in the future.

Claire Stephenson, leader of the opposition Green Party at City Hall, who questioned why the homes to benefit were in Bowthorpe, was told by officers that was because British Gas had been allocated that area, based on deprivation figures.

She then asked whether there were any other parts of the city where the money could have been spent.

Chris Rayner, head of housing property services, replied: 'We are in discussions with other providers. While the British Gas money cannot be spent in other areas, there are other suppliers we are talking to.

'I am expecting other operators to get in touch because there is extra funding out there to do this.'

Mrs MacDonald said: 'It does show the difficulties in spending other people's money. Unfortunately there may be times where you cannot spend it exactly as you want, but we should be welcoming the fact that these homes in Bowthorpe will benefit.'

• What do you think of the deal? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk