Res­i­dent gets heated over is­sues with Dun­beg homes

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

HOMES in Dun­beg’s Ma­rine Court are los­ing hot wa­ter and heat­ing reg­u­larly due to a fail­ing biomass sys­tem, Dun­beg Com­mu­nity Coun­cil heard this month.

A Ma­rine Court res­i­dent told com­mu­nity coun­cil­lors that house­holds had re­peat­edly lost hot wa­ter and heat­ing this year, of­ten for sev­eral hours ‘at the most in­con­ve­nient times’ due in part to a biomass gen­er­a­tor run­ning out of fuel.

Ma­rine Court, man­aged by West High­land Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (WHHA), is pow­ered by a biomass sys­tem de­signed to pro­vide af­ford­able warmth, where elec­tric or oil-based heat­ing sys­tems would lead to a higher cost. WHHA says hot wa­ter should flow con­stantly and un­lim­ited 30 se­conds af­ter the tap is turned. But, the res­i­dent told the Dun­beg meet­ing: ‘The heat­ing cuts out once a fort­night,’ and ‘there is no backup sys­tem’ – such as a hot wa­ter tank or an im­mer­sion switch, or an elec­tric shower, which res­i­dents are not al­lowed to in­stall.

The res­i­dent con­tin­ued: ‘ We have to pay for it and it is quite ex­pen­sive,’ cost­ing some fam­i­lies ap­prox­i­mately £ 30 or £40 a week.

Ac­cord­ing to a com­mu­nity Face­book page, hot wa­ter failed in the depths of win­ter in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, and most re­cently just be­fore 9am on June 7.

WHHA chief ex­ec­u­tive Les­ley McInnes told The Oban Times: ‘We had two re­ported in­ci­dents of the biomass sys­tem be­ing down on Fe­bru­ary 14 and Fe­bru­ary 21 that were out of hours emer­gen­cies, but our con­trac­tor at­tended. We found that there was a pres­sure drop in the sys­tem. As this hap­pened twice within a short pe­riod of time we in­ves­ti­gated, and as a so­lu­tion we fit­ted a pres­sure reg­u­lat­ing valve and our sys­tem is not show­ing any other re­ports.

‘There is a back-up sys­tem which im­me­di­ately kicks in when the main sys­tem fails. The backup sys­tem is op­er­ated with LPG, so if there are any is­sues with fuel de­liv­ery we have an al­ter­na­tive fuel source. We fully un­der­stand that this can cause peo­ple in­con­ve­nience and we want to en­sure that we do di­ag­nose faults as quickly as pos­si­ble.’

The res­i­dent also voiced com­plaints of prob­lems with the build qual­ity in Ma­rine Court, such as badly fit­ting, leak­ing doors and win­dows, and damp in bath­rooms and bed­rooms, with black mould grow­ing ‘no mat­ter how well ven­ti­lated it is’.

Ms McInnes re­sponded: ‘ All of the prop­er­ties meet all the re­quired na­tional stan­dards. A num­ber of peo­ple com­plained about the doors, and new doors were fit­ted last year.

‘On the is­sue of black mould this can be due to is­sues of ven­ti­la­tion – al­though it very much de­pends on cir­cum­stances.

‘We would want to check that it is a ven­ti­la­tion is­sue, so it is im­por­tant that peo­ple let us know.’

The res­i­dent added WHHA have ‘washed their hands’ of re­pairs: ‘We are fed up of go­ing to WHHA: we just do it our­selves.’

Ms McInnes re­sponded: ‘WHHA are now re­spon­si­ble for car­ry­ing out the re­pairs and this year we have re­ceived 47 re­pairs calls that we have re­sponded to – the ma­jor­ity within our timescales.

‘We were dis­turbed to hear that peo­ple feel that we are not re­spond­ing to any con­cerns they have and I have asked our staff team to visit each ten­ant in or­der that we can dis­cuss is­sues with them and agree any fol­low up ac­tion.’

Ma­rine Court’s homes are rent-to-buy, and even­tu­ally will come up for sale in two years’ time, but the res­i­dent told us these may prove hard to sell, say­ing: ‘We reckon about half the houses in Ma­rine Court have changed hands al­ready be­cause peo­ple have not wanted them, and the other half do not want to buy them. So I do not know what will hap­pen in two years’ time.’

Ms McInnes said: ‘The prop­er­ties in Ma­rine Court were let in May 2014 and since this date 16 have be­come va­cant.

‘Of these 16 some have moved within the de­vel­op­ment, some have left the area and some have moved within the Oban area.

‘No homes are ly­ing empty and for ev­ery prop­erty that has been va­cant we have had a num­ber of ap­pli­cants for that prop­erty.’

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