The Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty campaign, started by residents Claire Mackie and Fiona Gordon, was set up late last year when residents complained the THERMAflow electric heating system the council recommended be intalled in their homes was combining with the Scottish Power fuel tariff to create extraodinarily expensive bills – some as high as £150 per week.
The group’s online petition demanded an investigation into the rising costs and resulted in a face to face meeting with Scottish Power CEO Andrew Ward and national television exposure on BBC1’s One Show.
Now Claire, Fiona and the group stated they have had a meeting with Falkirk Council where it was agreed the local authority would be installing gas central heating in 767 homes in the Slamannan, Avonbridge, California and Whitecross areas.
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Claire said: “It’s an amazing result and not what we expected. The outcome is the right outcome. We’re honestly overwhelmed by this. The council took on bopard what we had to say.
“They have now delivered on this – although it’s in the early stages – and it is really going to change people’s lives.”
A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “Earlier this year, we formed an action plan to address a number of issues raised by tenants in off gas communities.
“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 four areas – Avonbridge, California, Slamannan and Whitecross – represents the best value option to the council.
“These areas cover nearly 90 per cent 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.”
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald welcomed the move by Falkirk Council.
He said: “I know this will come as welcome news to many people and families across this area of my constituency. I first raised this subject some years ago when I campaigned for Slamannan to be considered for gas heating, and it is an issue I have raised over the years with Falkirk Council.
“I am pleased, however, that the local authority have listened closely to the concerns of residents in the area and appear to be looking to install gas central heating in properties.
“Not only will this reduce costs significantly for those affected by recent issues, but it has the potential to change people’s lives. This recent dispute has, once again, raised the spectre of fuel poverty in Scotland, which is a national scandal in an energy and resource rich country in the 21st century.
“It should not be the case families and individuals have to choose whether to eat or whether to put their heating on.”