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Outwell couple saw Government-backed home energy scheme saw tradesmen driving from London to change lightbulbs

An Outwell couple have slammed a Government-backed energy scheme which, they say, saw tradesmen driving from London to change lightbulbs and work left unfinished despite assurances it would be done.

The Green Homes Scheme was overseen by Warmworks and widely promoted around Norfolk for homeowners to access help in energy conservation while also trying to reduce the carbon footprint of their property.

Grants were available for retrospective fitting of a range of measures.

Materials left outside the Outwell home
Materials left outside the Outwell home

But despite having their home covered in scaffolding for a fortnight and all the required materials being delivered and left on their driveway for 10 days, the couple say the promised external wall insulation was cancelled – twice.

Solar panels and light bulbs were eventually fitted following seven journeys from Milton Keynes and London by three different companies.

Donna Semmens and George Wyatt live in a 110-year old house in Outwell which has solid walls and can only be insulated externally as there is no cavity. Many older homes are constructed this way and are not energy-efficient.

Donna said: “The whole thing was a farce from start to finish. We had two men drive out on different days from London, one to turn lights on and off and another to replace some of our light bulbs with low-energy versions.

“They could have sent us the bulbs and we could have changed them.

“The first inspector sent by Warmworks to survey our home walked off the job after three hours after finding that our loft, unsurprisingly, had spiders.

“The company appointed to carry out the external insulation didn’t bother to do a technical survey on our house until mid-September which meant there was no way it could finish by the September 30 deadline.

“Except we weren’t told of any deadlines and the house was already scaffolded after contractors drove out from Heathrow on two different days to erect it.

“Warmworks cancelled the job, then said it would be reinstated as there had been a ‘special extension’ to the funding. A week later, when the contractors were due to start, they cancelled it again.

“We had to physically move all the materials from the road-end of our driveway, which was blocked, to the back of the house – including lifting around 20 25kg sacks of dry-mix and various other materials.

“Ironically, Warmworks sent two inspectors in two vehicles from London to inspect the work on the very day they pulled the plug.

“All we have had since then is buck-passing and blame shifting. The nearest contractor used throughout was a scaffolding company from Milton Keynes which put some platforms up for solar panels to be installed. They were finally wired-in on September 30 – at the very last minute.”

Warmworks had been appointed by the South East Energy Hub which has its headquarters in Ely, and was responsible for spending public money on schemes which would save both energy and expense for people who met the criteria and lived in older houses with a low energy, EPC rating.

A spokesperson for Warmworks said: “Warmworks managed this application for support through the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery (LAD) grant scheme.

“We are pleased to have successfully completed the installation of solar PV panels and low energy lighting under the scheme, at no cost to the customer.

“These are substantial energy saving interventions that will enhance the energy efficiency of the home.

“The survey of their home indicated that external wall insulation could also be considered at this property. However, as the Government brought the grant scheme year to an end on September 30, which was before the additional installation work could be completed, it was not possible to proceed with the extra work.

“The timetable of the scheme year and all decisions as to funding are governed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

“On this occasion, recognising that the additional work had already been recommended, Warmworks applied to BEIS for an extension to allow the work to be completed.

“Regrettably, this application was not approved, which meant that it was not possible to complete the installation of the additional insulation work.

“We arranged for the removal of materials from the property when it became apparent that it would not be possible for work to proceed.

“We have been in regular contact with our customers to keep them informed about this situation and the related actions that we have taken throughout the process.”

A spokesman for The Greater South East Net Zero Hub (GSENZH) said: “We have recently been made aware of the difficulties with this application.

“The LAD2 scheme has had very high levels of applications and Warmworks have worked hard to complete as many installations as possible by the September deadline.

“There were capacity issues being experienced across the entirety of the South East of England, finding surveyors and installers able to deliver the volumes required.

“Furthermore, the timescales involved for such government schemes are very challenging, both of which have been a contributing factor to difficulties with delivery across the region.

“We have been in contact with Ms Semmens to apologise that they have not received the standard of customer service or the completed works they were hoping for.

“The details have been escalated within Warmworks as well as with our framework manager to provide a positive resolution and so that lessons can be learnt to continuing improving delivery of the scheme.

“The delivery of this scheme is now with a different managing agent for the area, and we will continue to liaise with Ms Semmens to assist with any future energy saving interventions that may be possible via the scheme.”

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