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Isle Of Wight Housing Estate Under Fire As Children 'Go Cold'

“Angry and frustrated” parents say their young children are going cold as heating costs on an Isle of Wight housing estate skyrocket to ‘unaffordable’ rates.

Residents of Bluebell Meadows and St George’s Gate claim they have been ‘lied to’ and feel ‘let down’, having been promised cheap bills and houses which were economical to run.

Despite the estate using a unique biomass heating system — a centralised system which burns wood chippings to provide heat and hot water to homes — those living there say they have faced soaring costs in recent months.

Those responsible for the estate — Barratt David Wilson Homes, the Isle of Wight Council and Sovereign Network Group, which together form the Pan Management Company — say the surge in prices “reflect the handover of the biomass centre” to the estate management company.

In a joint statement, they said they were looking at the fuel supply arrangements to try to help reduce costs.

Residents claim there has been a lack of “proper answers” and a meeting for residents arranged earlier this year was cancelled.

Mum-of-one, Amy, 28, is among those who have been calling for accountability.

In December, she said she was “mortified” to see her bills more than double, from £38 to £100 a month.

Amy said residents were ‘trapped’ and could not switch energy providers.

She said:

“Like many others on the estate, one of the main reasons I purchased a new build Barratts home was because of their unique selling point – the homes were economically efficient to run and now I can certainly say that is not true.

“I understand bills are going up, I expected them to, but not this much. Me and my little one have been really ill this past winter and there is only so much wrapping up in clothes and blankets you can do.”

Another resident, Louise, says she has had to buy electric heaters for her house but still has to pay her standing charge, which like other prices, has risen.

“I just want to heat my house without having to worry how I would have to pay for it,” she said.

Meanwhile, resident Tina said when she moved in four years ago she was told the biomass system was the “most economical choice”.

Now it is ‘just ridiculous’, she said, as there is no protection for residents as Pan Energy is not regulated with Ofgem, meaning there is no price capping.

She said she has asked for an explanation but has heard “absolutely nothing”.

“It is very frustrating”, she said. “This is kicking us while we are down.”

Ward representative, Cllr Geoff Brodie, said he has been pushing for answers and residents deserved to be looked after.

He said:

“The whole development was going to be the greatest thing that ever happened — renewable energy, sustainable houses – and it was going to be cheap to run.”

Residents’ bills had been partially subsidised so far, Cllr Brodie said, but increases had started to be phased in and no one will know the full charges until Barratts hands over the biomass system when it is complete.

Cllr Brodie is calling for a public meeting and wants residents to be able to opt out of the system without having to pay a standing charge and for the company to become properly regulated.

A joint statement from the four companies involved said the charge increases “reflect the handover of the biomass centre” from Barratts to the estate management company, as well as the recent cost of energy increases and high inflation rates.

The heating network is now almost complete, the statement said, and partners and the management company are working together to agree the maintenance strategy and service charge.

The statement said they were also looking at the fuel supply arrangements to try to help reduce costs, with more information confirmed towards the end of May.

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