The role of a Councillor is to help residents with not only any problems they have, but also to help them to achieve something they feel is important. This is the case with Penny, who along with others, feels Porthleven should have access to mainline gas. Since Penny came to me, I have been looking into how to solve this issue.
It is one of histories oversights that Porthleven has no gas, I really do not understand why gas was never installed in Porthleven. I know Porthleven was a lot smaller 80/100 odd years ago, but that still does not make it right.
Looking at the wider picture, Porthleven is not alone in its lack of connection to mainline gas as:
- 51.6% of households in Cornwall are without mainline gas (48.4% with)*;
- Without mainline gas in the South West region 31.1; England 21.2%.
More startling look at the number of households with no central heating*:
- Households with no central heating in Cornwall – 7.2%;
- Households in the Isles of Scilly with no central heating – 26.3%;
- Households in the South West region with no central heating – 3.6%;
- Households in England with no central heating – 2.7%;
- Porthleven households with no central heating 10% (takes into account Sithney – LSOA) Porthleven West – 66 households (12%); Porthleven North and Sithney 61 households (11%) and Porthleven East 44 households (7%).
The good news is Wales and West – who are responsible for putting in gas infrastructure in Cornwall – would be happy to put mainline gas into Porthleven. This is great, at least that is a start. However, the no-so good news is the cost of putting in mainline gas and its associated costs.
This cost could be over £2.5m to bring mainline gas to Porthleven. A huge amount in anyone’s book. I asked Wales and West – who have been very helpful – could this be part of their capital infrastructure plans. The answer was simple – no. Though the company did explain the process and what would be needed for such a large project to move forward. Before this idea gets to the concept stage, Wales and West would need:
- To take this forward Wales and West (WW) require 524 homes to sign up and willing to pay the service and connection charge. Those signing-up would be written to confirming they are willing to sign-up and then asked to pay (NB – this money would be refunded if the projects fails to go ahead);
- This connection and service charge (subject to final estimate) totals £2910 – Service is £1,205/connection £1,705;
- Connection and service charge would be applicable until the penetration; reached 1,310 homes. ie. the number of dwelling connected;
- Post 1310, the charge would be £1,705;
- Nearest mainline gas connection is 16,000m away. Basically near the boating lake. The pipeline would then have to be installed along Porthleven Road.
- Possible grant funding for those on certain benefits. Even with a grant the cost will still be £514 +Vat (under 10m) but if there are large gardens it will about to £1,200 + VAT (based on a single connection)
- Grant possible through Integrated Energy Services. Details to be confirmed
- Once 524 have signed up, and who will be required to pay up front, the detailed costing will be worked up including timeframes
- Project timeline for implementation could be at least 2 years, installation to properties could take longer.
Porthleven has currently 1850 dwellings. This is made up of:
- Coastline Housing – 170;
- DCH Housing – 90;
- Second Home/Holiday Lets** – at least 232 (blogs on second homes HERE);
- Private ownership/rent – 1,358
If there was the required 524 households willing to sign up and part with the cash (if scheme does not go forward this money is reimbursed) it would need to co-operation of the housing associations, and a number of second homes/holiday lets.
In moving this project forward, I have been speaking to both Coastline and DCH. Both have been positive about the plan. Coastline has said:
“Coastline Housing is supportive to the principle of bringing mainline gas to Porthleven. As stated in the Corporate Plan 2014-17 Coastline Housing recognises the substantial increases in heating and is undertaking an ambitious plan to significantly reduce costs for customers. We are primarily focussed on improved insulation and an increased SAP rating but the additional affordability challenges presented in “off gas” areas is well understood so we have been working with Cornwall Council, Glow Cornwall and utility companies to identify opportunities to extend the existing gas main network.”
DCH have yet to give a firm response because they have taken my request to their various boards to discuss this. However, in the conversation I have had, they seem positive about the project.
Even if we got to the stage of the required numbers to sign up, this does not take into consideration of upgrading a households heating system. This could cost between £5,000 and £8,000***.
This means a household could be expected to pay as much as £10,000 to have mainline gas.
Of course when looking into the feasibility of this project, I had a look at funding. Cornwall Council have been very helpful in looking around to see if there is a pot of funding that could be used for this project. This included both national and European funding. Sadly as yet, there is nothing available.
This brings me onto two other issues. The first one is on the current thinking about energy funding. From the looks of things, both the funding for European and Government is heading towards renewable, including ground-source heating and solar. This is where the funding pots are, not sadly in mainline gas.
The second issue is on the confusing world of State Aid. This is where there are rules on what can or cannot be funded. I have a guidance book that is half and inch thick on State Aid, and believe me, it is not an easy read. In the simplest terms, it is very hard to give funding to privately owned properties. So for both gas and renewables it could be hard to justify funding to non-housing association dwellings.
In gathering support for the project, I asked for this idea to go on to Porthleven Town Council agenda, allowing this to be discussed at their monthly meeting. This meeting has taken place, and the good news is the town council is supportive of the aims of bringing mainline gas to Porthleven. However, it was not just gas they supported, but they wanted to look at all forms of alternative energy, including renewables. This is a sensible way forward, as by looking at other forms of energy, there might be the funding required for something that has so far eluded me.
I am sorry this blog post is so long, I am trying to explain how a simple and great idea is not that easy to carry out.
*ONS Census 20th Jan 2013; ** As of 29/11/12 second homes and 27/11/12 for holiday lets when I last did the research. *** estimate cost from Coastline.