Heating system failing at estate

Middlesex Street Estate
Image credit LDRS

A new heating system being installed in a Central London estate has been described as ‘failing on all counts’, with residents not even able to control the temperature. A Deputy at the City of London also queried why leaseholders living in the Middlesex Street Estate should be obliged to pay a penny towards the costs, saying they are at risk of being ‘sold a pup’.

The City of London Corporation approved the replacement of the estate’s existing 1970s heating system in 2019, with work beginning later that year. In a Community and Children’s Services Committee report from last November, officers wrote the old system had been subject ‘to multiple failures’, and that the new pumps, boiler and other items ‘will provide a much more efficient heating system using much less energy than the existing system’.

They continued: “The HIU’s (Heat Interface Units) will also allow accurate individual billing rather than the current system where all costs are shared equally. If a resident uses less hot water and heating, they pay less. The new communal heating and hot water system benefits from a connection installed and ready to accept another form of energy to supply the heating and hot water. This could be in the form of air source heat pump technology, water source or potentially a district heating system.”

At a Housing Management and Almshouses Sub-Committee meeting earlier this week (June 3), Deputy John Fletcher, who represents the Portsoken ward, however, raised serious doubts about the success of the scheme to date.

“The new heating system for Middlesex Street was sold to members and residents as one with maximum user control and metered billing,” he said. “The system is now partly installed, and it is failing on all counts. The metering has been decoupled from the installation, and will now happen at some vague point in the future.”

Deputy Fletcher continued to note that the heating is restricted to 21 degrees allegedly in order to comply with Government advice, and asked when residents were informed of this ‘Draconian Big Brother policy’.

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A resident living on the estate, Lana Joyce, 77, separately told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) of issues with the heating system’s installation. She said it is ‘not heating adequately in relatively normal winter conditions and certainly is clearly going to be a problem if we have a severe cold spell’.

She added there have been problems with some of the workmanship, including holes left when old pipes have been removed, and unpainted patches following the removal of heating panels.

‘Sold a pup’

During the Sub-Committee meeting, Deputy Fletcher questioned whether leaseholders should be paying towards the costs of the installation given the system’s current shortcomings.

“I can’t see why the leaseholders should pay a penny until they have total flexibility of the temperature in their flats and they have metering, which is what was promised to them, and if they don’t get it they have been sold a pup,” he said.

Peta Caine, assistant director of housing management, told Deputy Fletcher that while the metering issue does need to be sorted out as a priority, the temperature is specified for the system and recommended for the properties concerned.

She added different homes will have different temperatures based on features such as their orientation and sunlight, and that not everyone took the specified radiators.

“I know that this might not be the answer that you wanted today, but really I need to get to the bottom of where the issues are,” she said, before noting that ‘not all the benefits will be realised until the metering is rolled out, and I need to know when that’s planned’.

The communal heating work at the Middlesex Street Estate is expected to be completed by next month.

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