Energy efficiency work on hundreds of homes in Berwick has been stepped up to try and meet a new deadline for funding.
A change in the way such schemes are funded, outlined by the Government last month, means the work must now be completed by the end of March.
It means there is a huge race against time to finish work on more than 350 properties in the Highcliffe and Newfields areas of the town.
“It’s going to be a serious challenge but we believe we can pull it off,” said Ben Jenkinson, regional manager of MITIE, the strategic outsourcing company carrying out the work.
The Highcliffe and Newfields projects had been placed under severe jeopardy by the policy change (see panel).
The company had three options, a) to withdraw; b) to come with a new ‘green deal’ finance option for private home owners; or c) to try and get the work done by March 31.
“It’s our belief that we have a moral obligation to deliver these measures so we’ve now implemented an accelerated programme to attempt to complete all outstanding properties in this revised timeframe,” said Ben.
One potential problem is the weather, although so far the winter has not been too severe.
“It’s the worst time of the year to be trying to accelerate a housing energy efficiency programme,” Ben admitted.
Extra staff have been brought in and they will be working six days a week, although it means there will be extra disruption for residents.
“We’ve worked very hard over the Christmas period to achieve a workable solution that delivers these savings to all Highcliffe and Newfields residents,” added Ben.
“It’s like we are in a funding warzone as a result of these changes, but our message to the people of Berwick is that we are in the trenches with you.
“We want to achieve the goal we set out to, but we will need the patience and assistance of the residents to achieve it.”
Public meetings were held on the two housing estates earlier this week.
MITIE are also opening a new energy advice centre in the William Elder Building on Castlegate in February, utilising different funding streams to help more residents benefit from energy saving works.