Fight for compensation goes to Parliament after 65 homes affected by government-backed cladding scheme
PUBLISHED: 11:48 01 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:10 01 March 2019
A fight to get compensation for people in homes hit by severe mould and rainwater amid claims of poor quality work being carried out during a government-backed scheme has been taken to Parliament.
MP for Waveney Peter Aldous has raised a petition calling for 65 Lowestoft homeowners, chosen for the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) in 2012, to be financially compensated.
More than 400 properties in the Harbour Ward were set to benefit from solid wall insulation works, new central heating systems, boiler replacements and new windows - intended to make homes warmer and reduce energy bills.
Installation was overseen by Mitie Property Services, whose project partners included The Bright Green Lowestoft Organization, Waveney District Council, Suffolk Climate Change Partnership, Climate Energy Limited and Npower.
But the homes have since been plagued by a string of issues, most notably severe mould on interior walls, faulty cladding and water pouring into properties during periods of bad weather.
Phil Smith, who has lived on Seago Street for 25 years, is one of the affected homeowners. He and his wife Diane simply want to get on with their lives after countless setbacks.
“When water started coming into the house I thought it was something I had done,” said Mr Smith, 61. “But when I investigated further I could see there were seals missing in important places, and my neighbour was affected as well.
“I sealed the property as much as I could and still there was water coming in. The problem was gradually increasing, but the trouble was we couldn’t test whether it had been fixed until it rained.
“Us residents are the ones who have been shipped out to sea and left to row the lifeboat back to shore. We feel like we’ve been abandoned and to get things moving we have had to take this to Peter Aldous and raise this petition.”
Active from 2009 to 2012, the Community Energy Saving Programme required energy companies to deliver energy efficiency improvements on a community scale to low income households.
It was forecasted to attract more than £3m worth of funding from project sponsor, Npower, and improve the area aesthetically.
Instead, the work is said to have caused considerable personal distress for an abundance of homeowners and has had an adverse impact on the value and marketability of the properties.
Mr Aldous said: “It is not right that such work, as part of a government-backed scheme, has been carried out in such a sub-standard way and has had such a negative impact on many residents and homeowners, affecting both their health and the value and saleability of their homes.
“It is important that the necessary remedial work is carried out as quickly as possible.
“Sixty-five residents and homeowners signed the petition, though there may be others who are affected. If anyone has concerns, I should be very grateful if they would let me know.”
The MP has written to Mitie as well as energy minister Claire Perry, energy regulator Ofgem and Npower - proposing the matter is addressed and seeking their support in rectifying the defects.
His petition has also called on the government to ensure properties are inspected by a qualified assessor, with residents compensated for financial losses and given assurance that insurance cover will be made available without financial penalties.
In response to enquiries about the extent of Waveney District Council’s involvement in the 2012 scheme, council leader Mark Bee said: “The Council is aware of the concerns that some residents have regarding the standard of work undertaken as part of the Community Energy Savings Programme.
“Waveney District Council did not procure the work and had no direct involvement other than to confirm it had been consulted by the Community Energy Savings Programme.”
“The council would urge against removal of the cladding without the benefit of prior specialist assessment as this may create problems in itself. It should also be borne in mind that there are many properties where residents are happy with their installation and have experienced no problems.”
Mr Bee added: “Peter Aldous has been very involved in supporting a number of the affected residents.
“In addition, we are aware there are homeowners up and down the country who have experienced similar problems and Mr Aldous has offered to make contact with other relevant MPs in the hope that collective action may have more of an effect. He remains committed to supporting the residents, although his offer of support has not yet been taken up.”
“Likewise, the council has carried out its own investigation and officers have offered all appropriate help and will continue to provide reasonable support if the residents decide to take legal action against the contractors. This offer of support will continue following the inception of East Suffolk Council.”
Mitie has been contacted for comment.
• Have you been affected by the work carried out in Lowestoft’s Harbour Ward as part of the Community Energy Saving Programme? Let us know by emailing email@example.com.