Councillor demands ‘proper’ probe into failing heat network

A veteran councillor in Sutton is demanding a “proper investigation” into the dodgy-looking business affairs of the council-owned heating network, SDEN.

In a matter of a few weeks, a council meeting was told how the business plan of Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd was “dishonest at best, fraudulent at worst”.

Then SDEN’s long-standing managing director quit, somewhat abruptly, just after it was announced that accountancy body CIPFA had been called in to conduct what is supposed to be an independent investigation.

And now heating regulator Ofgem has said it would also conduct a probe into the pricing policies of Sutton’s lukewarm heating network.

According to independent councillor Nick Mattey, SDEN has already cost Sutton approaching £5million.

And with only a single customer – builders Barratts and the unfortunate residents of their New Mill Quarter development where they have a monopoly supplier of heating and hot water – there is diminishingly small likelihood of the heating network ever managing to deliver the returns that the LibDems who control Sutton Council had promised.

Nick Mattey: questions over the independence of the SDEN investigation

SDEN was established to “greenwash” the planning application for the Beddington Lane waste incinerator, promising to use the energy from burned rubbish to supply hot water and heating for nearby homes and businesses. After nearly five years of SDEN being in business, the incinerator has yet to provide any energy to the heat network.

Mattey is due to meet with the investigators from CIPFA next week, when he is expected to hand over a dossier of documents which he believes points to serious wrong-doing at the council over SDEN and its obviously flawed business model.

The Beddington North councillor has been a constant whistle-blower over the shady deals done to push through planning permission for Viridor’s £210million incinerator and their £1billion contract with four south London boroughs, including Croydon.

Now Mattey has written to Sutton Council chief executive, Helen Bailey, demanding that any investigation into SDEN’s business affairs should examine every aspect of negotiations between the council and Barratts over the planning permission granted for the New Mill Quarter, which he believes was done in return for the developers signing up as customers of SDEN.

Mattey wrote, “SDEN needs to be investigated properly. What we do not need is a superficial investigation…

Hot topic: New Mill Quarter’s homes are all linked to the council-backed SDEN heating network

“What we do not want is some chummy talking shop where there is no real investigation.

“Witness statements need to be submitted so that the investigators can get to the truth: 800 homes risk being forced to bankroll yet another failing Sutton Council project unless this investigation is comprehensive

“As the council’s chief executive, you need to present the investigators [with] a documented explanation of what Sutton Council officers did to persuade Barratts to sign up to SDEN. Then you should provide the investigators [with] an explanation into why, after several years of totally appalling service from SDEN, Barratts have not kicked SDEN off the New Mill Quarter.

“Normally, a firm like Barratts would not want to be associated with a bunch of amateurs who have redefined the word clueless.

“But Barratts are keeping schtum. Why is this?

“I have my theories. Perhaps you can put the investigators in the picture?”

Read more: Sutton heat network director quits as fraud inquiry begins
Read more: SDEN’s business plan ‘dishonest at best, fraudulent at worst’
Read more: SDEN: A timeline of council bungling and sky-high fuel prices

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2 Responses to Councillor demands ‘proper’ probe into failing heat network

  1. Kevin Croucher says:

    The latest issue of Private Eye has an item in Rotten Boroughs about BxB and the departure of Lacey.

    There is also a piece about a failing district heating scheme in Nottingham, also based around an incinerator, this looks set to cost the residents £18m to sort out. Do these schemes ever work?

  2. Lewis White says:

    Good question, as to whether district heating systems really work.
    My direct experience of them has been limited, to one council estate I worked on (on landscape improvements). As a convenient “man from the council” on site, although the heating was notheing to do with me, I was told by one tenant that the ducts delivering heat to the next door property came through her own flat, and that , as a result, the tempertures in her own flat were far too high, and she could do nothing to reduced the temperatures.

    I wondered whether this was bad design of the routing of the pipework layout, or bad insulation, or both. The system was probably around 25 years old.

    I can envisage in theory, some state of the art, well-planned, well-insulated heating network, serving residential areas, avoiding “compulsory over-heating ” to one property, or maybe the other side of the heating coin– inadequate heating to another. But how does theory match up with reality?

    What about the cost of running a huge communal boilerhouse, or replacing pumps, boilers and pipework under the ground and in individual dwellings, after 30 years? My feeling–unless there is a source of bulk heat such as Icelandic geothermal heat– that district heating may be rather like some mainframe computer, versus the network of individual PC’s that would be the equivalent of a gas combi boiler or electric heating in every flat .

    To me, (again, in theory) it seems to make sense to use “free waste heat” to heat factories and warehouses located nearby to facilities like the Beddingtom incinerator or SELCHiP in Deptford. Small numbers of big buildings, rather than big numbers of small flats

    Are there many-or any ?- such factories and warehouses like this- in the Beddington Lane area?

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