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Hastings - full of hard-to-heat houses.

Home heating – get wised up this Saturday

The rising cost of gas and electricity is making it increasingly hard for poorer people to heat their houses properly in winter. Fuel poverty – when a household has to spend more than 10% of its budget on heating – has become a major social problem. Practical advice on how to make your home warmer and your energy bills lower will be available this Saturday, 9 March, in Bexhill, as Nick Terdre reports.

The event offers members of the public the chance to network with energy experts and local organisations with experience in tackling energy inefficient homes, and to hear speakers putting this important energy debate into perspective.

Heading the line-up of speakers is Greg Barker, Tory MP for Bexhill and Battle and Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Joining him will be renewable energy specialists Donna Hume and Liz Hutchins of Friends of the Earth and Richard Watson, a fuel poverty expert from action group Energise Sussex Coast.

Greg Barker is the author of the Green Deal, which provides government funding for householders to make improvements to the energy performance of their homes, for example by installing insulation or double glazing, and then paying off the loan through their energy bills over 20 years.

There are other government schemes for tackling homes with heating problems but often they have been poorly publicised and take-up has been low, says Mr Watson. Meanwhile the incidence of fuel poverty continues to grow as energy bills just get bigger – in the last six years the average bill has doubled.

Mr Watson is also a director of the Bexhill Energy Advice Centre. “We helped to insulate around 100 homes last winter using government funding,” he tells HOT. That funding has now ended, but the centre is still active, offering free winter home checks and practical assistance to certain categories of benefit claimants.

Fuel poverty is a particular problem in the Hastings area, one of the UK’s most deprived regions. Government statistics show that 5,710 households in Hastings – one in seven – suffered from fuel poverty in 2009, the last year for which figures are available. In Rother fuel poverty afflicted 7,112 households, not far short of one in five. In both boroughs the situation is almost certain to have worsened since then.

Hastings is stuffed with hard-to-heat homes – old Victorian houses with solid walls and large windows often occupied by vulnerable groups – infants and children, old people, and those who are ill or have disabilities. Premature deaths among the elderly are much higher in the UK than in other comparable European countries. Poverty only compounds the problem – increasingly we read of poor households where a choice has to be made between heating and eating.

As Energise Sussex Coast says, “It is a disgrace that we still have people dying of cold in the UK. We should be ashamed, we should make our MPs ashamed, and we should make them end it.”

And while working for a more effective political response, we should also find out what measures we can take to improve the heating efficiency of our homes and to reduce our energy bills. Saturday’s meeting should be a good place to start.

Saturday, 9 March

Venue: Centre Stage, 78 London Road, Bexhill

Timings: 09.30 to 10.30 Meet and mingle with energy experts and local groups

10.30-11.30 Speakers and debate

12.00-1700 Energy advice sessions.

For more information call 07831 648 171

Energise Sussex Coast: http://energisesussexcoast.co.uk/. This website also has information on Bexhill Energy Advice Centre (31 Station Road, Bexhill. Tel 0844 415 2279)

 

Posted 19:03 Tuesday, Mar 5, 2013 In: Green Times

Also in: Green Times

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