Anger as Falkirk Council goes back on promise to bring gas heating to Braes villages

The high cost of installing gas central heating in Braes villages has forced Falkirk Council to “undertake further assessment” on the promise it made back in 2020.

By James Trimble
Thursday, 24th June 2021, 5:02 pm

The Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty campaign began in November 2019 when residents complained the THERMAflow electric heating system Falkirk Council recommended be installed in their homes was combining with the Scottish Power fuel tariff to create extraordinarily expensive bills – some as high as £150 per week.

Their online petition demanded an investigation into the rising costs and resulted in a face to face meeting with Scottish Power CEO Andrew Ward.

The group then scored a major victory – or so they thought – in June 2020 when Falkirk Council agreed to begin installing gas central heating in over 700 properties in the area.

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Falkirk's Fortgotten Villages protesters demonstrate outside Scottish Power HQ

However, in a message to one of the campaigners, Falkirk Council stated: “We have been awaiting quotation information from SGN regarding the costs of installing the necessary infrastructure to provide gas heating to localities in off-gas areas.

"The quote received is based on provided gas infrastructure to six localities – Limerigg, Slamannan, Avonbridge, California, Whitecross and Letham – covering 781 Council homes.

"The quote is, however, substantially above previous estimates/budget and also the working assumptions we used in our options appraisal. As such, additional work is now required in order to assess the quote and the associated implications for the Housing Investment Programme budget and also the previously undertaken options appraisal.

"We also need to better understand the reasons from SGN for such a significant increase in costs and also get a breakdown of the costs associated with each individual locality. We are seeking this additional information as a matter of urgency from SGN.

“We are disappointed in relation to the quote received, as I am sure you and the communities will also be. However, I want to provide reassurance we will look to review and consider the quote and the implications on the Housing Investment Programme and the options appraisal, as a matter of urgency.

"This will however take a period of time to finalise and we will provide a further update once this work has been concluded.

“Please be assured the council remains committed to identifying the best and most appropriate heating solution for our tenants. However, in light of the significant increase in quoted costs, we require to undertake further assessment, to ensure we identify and can fund the most appropriate solution.”

Slamannan resident Claire Mackie, co-founder of Falkirk’s Fortgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty, said: “We are not entirely surprised by this outcome of discussions with Falkirk Council and SGN.

“We truly feel we have been led on a merry dance from the outset, allowing Falkirk Council to buy another year of this system, whilst taking out a four-year maintenance contract with Neat Heat for the current system.

“Coincidentally it is one year to the exact day Falkirk Council told us to share the fantastic news that a decision on mains gas being installed was happening. On the same day exactly 12 months later we are now told this is not the case and a further period of time is required to consider next steps.”