Thousands left freezing as council heating network fails again

Residents who paid up to £600,000 for luxury homes on a Barratts-built Hackbridge development fear their properties have become unsellable because of a ‘100% reliable’ heating network owned by the LibDem-run council. Our Sutton correspondent, CARL SHILTON, reports

More than a thousand residents living in recently built “luxury” homes in Hackbridge were forced to shiver through most of Friday due to the latest outage of their dodgy heating network, as January temperatures dropped below zero degrees.

Shivering: homes in New Mill Quarter have suffered heating outages 12 times in 12 months

It is the 12th occasion when residents of New Mill Quarter have suffered a breakdown in their heating and hot water system in the past 12 months. The heating supplier is SDEN, the Sutton Council-owned network.

Home-owners only started to move into the 400 homes on the Barratt-built development three years ago, having paid between £350,000 and £600,000 for the properties. But many now fear that their flats and houses have been rendered unsellable because of SDEN, the Sutton Decentralised Energy Network, which has a monopoly position for hot water and heating to the development.

Sutton Council promised that SDEN would “alleviate fuel poverty” by supplying cheap heating and hot water from the polluting Beddington incinerator. Desperate to secure heating customers to justify building the incinerator, Sutton did a sweetheart deal with Barratts, granting planning permission for an extra 80 flats – market value: approximately £30million – to ensure that all their New Mill Quarter homes were linked to their network.

Former SDEN director Simon Woodward (left) and Amanda Cherrington at the opening of the New Mill Quarter

But the incinerator has never provided any heating for New Mill Quarter, which instead uses some increasingly unreliable gas-fired generators.

With yesterday’s fault reported around midday, SDEN engineers did not arrive on site for more than seven hours. Heating to the homes was not properly restored until just before midnight, to the obvious distress of families with young children and many older and vulnerable residents.

The only thing that gets New Mill Quarter residents really hot – under the collar – are their heating bills, which come in at at least twice the price of other available heating – another factor making properties linked to SDEN less attractive to potential buyers.

“SDEN has failed and the staff, council and councillors are incompetent,” Sheldon Vestey, the chair of the NMQ residents’ association, said in a stinging email sent off in complaint to Amanda Cherrington, SDEN’s managing director, and a strong of senior figures at Sutton Council.

In his email, Vestey alleges that SDEN, with its overpriced and unreliable service, has committed fraud against the residents of New Mill Quarter.

“I have no doubt that there will be further excuses trotted out to cover this but I will remind you, residents … bought properties on the basis of 100 per cent reliability. A fact that is still proudly displayed on the SDEN website,” Vestey said.

“To add insult to injury, we are paying double what someone not linked into this faulty system would pay. Originally, the price per Kwh was set at 6.1p. After extensive lobbying over several years this has dropped to 4.76p whilst the standing charge was increased to £380 per annum for my own property. In no way does this represent the market or parity of any sort.

Councillor Nick Mattey: SDEN would be investigated if it wasn’t owned by the council

“Put simply, this is wrong and there is no justification for it, a topic that is well-rehearsed between residents, the council, councillors and SDEN. What begins to appear as fraud is that at inception market rates were 3.2p yet somehow, [London Borough of Sutton] and SDEN under a majority LibDem council pushed through pricing at 6.1p after receiving central government funding on a system they advertised as fighting fuel poverty.”

In his email, seen by Inside Croydon, Vestey goes on to say, “It is now clear that Amanda Cherrington, the managing director of SDEN, is incompetent. Emails to her are still auto-responded to with suggestions to contact the [Local Government Ombudsman], a service that has never been able to handle complaints.

“She routinely states she has no time for residents’ complaints, of which there are hundreds.”

Independent Sutton councillor Nick Mattey, who has campaigned against the incinerator and the council’s dodgy SDEN heating scam, said today, “Normally a company that promises a lot but delivers nothing would be under investigation by Trading Standards.

“Unfortunately in the case of SDEN, Sutton Council officers run Trading Standards and they have failed to investigate this shockingly poor service.”

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5 Responses to Thousands left freezing as council heating network fails again

  1. Paul Skeet says:

    There should always be a back up to any communal scheme of heating, as you have to factor in Sods Law, where if it can go wrong, it inevitably will!

  2. George R Taylor says:

    Why do all the boilers fail at once?

    • Nick Davies says:

      It’s possible that all it takes is a pump to fail, or a valve to seize, or someone digging the road up to go through a cable or pipe and the whole lot goes tits up.

      Of course it should be designed with dual redundancy, so any breakdown or maintenance shutdown switches the users to a backup system. I wonder if it was?

  3. Paul Skeet says:

    As I understand it, this development has a ‘district heating’ system, with little or no backup. It’s totally reliant on heat production from the new Viridor incinerator plant in Beddington Lane. If there’s a problem with the production from that, then it will certainly have a major impact on New Mill Qtr.

    • You really need to read the article you’ve chosen to comment on Paul. The district heating network has never worked. Heating has never been supplied from the incinerator, as was originally announced by the LibDem council. Instead, the development gets its heating from a couple of gas-fired generators.

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