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Warming Barton – A warmer winter in Oxford’s East end

As a famous university town, full of medieval buildings, narrow  lanes and, of course, the feeling that you’ll bump into Inspector Morse at any minute, it may come as a surprise to visitors that parts of the city are among the most deprived in the county. Barton, in the North East of the City, is one of those neighbourhoods in the bottom 10% in the UK in terms of experiencing multiple levels of deprivation (eg low skills, low incomes and high levels of crime).

A high proportion of Barton’s homes are steel-frame prefabricated buildings which as well as being poorly insulated and hard to treat are not the most attractive of buildings (to put it mildly).  Ex-council houses which have previously been sold off as ‘right to buy’ homes stand out clearly from the current Council houses which were overclad to meet the Decent Homes Standard a few years ago, and a new housing development next door threatens to leave Barton even further behind the times.

Photo of current Barton home: An example of a steel-frame prefabricated house in Barton

Photo of current Barton home: An example of a steel-frame prefabricated house in Barton

So when DECC announced the Pioneer Places grant, Barton was top of the list for a targeted project to improve the quality of life for residents in this deprived pocket of Oxford.  Working with local partner the Low Carbon Hub, the plan was to engage residents through their local community group and recruit households to benefit from free energy assessments, identifying ways of saving energy and improving the quality of people’s homes.

A pioneering place

The party started, literally, at the ‘Barton Bash’ in November 2012 – a highlight in the local events calendar, organised by the local community association.  Alongside the barbecue, party games and face painting, volunteers got chatting to local people about the potential to improve their homes and lower their energy bills. 

Following this, every household in Barton received a leaflet about the offer (branded with both the City Council and Low Carbon Hub logos). Well-briefed local volunteers then followed up with a door-knocking campaign that targeted the hard-to-treat properties in the area. Householders were offered free energy assessments and were told these might potentially lead to fully or partly-funded energy-saving measures which would increase the comfort as well as the value of their homes.

Making connections with existing local groups, including the newly formed Low Carbon Barton environmental group, has been a key part of a successful campaign.  The connection with the Council and the support of a particularly passionate and respected local Councillor, Van Coulter,  also made a big difference. 

Councillors Van Coulter and Mike Rowley, and Andrew Smith MP at the Barton Bash event chosen to launch the Warming Barton pilot

Councillors Van Coulter and Mike Rowley, and Andrew Smith MP at the Barton Bash event chosen to launch the Warming Barton pilot

The Warming Barton project had a very positive reception from householders and within just two weeks 108 households had signed up for the free energy assessments. A total of 119 assessments were delivered throughout the project and, with local domestic energy assessors skilled up as Green Deal Assessors following the launch of the Green Deal, 61 of these include full Green Deal Advice Reports (an Energy Performance Certificate and Occupancy Assessment).  The result was a grand total of 579 recommended actions, 206 tCO2 potential annual savings and the potential for each household to save an average of £450 each on their bills.

Looking forward to a warmer winter

Our feedback suggests that residents of Barton were immediately motivated to make simple but effective changes to save money in their homes such as switching to energy efficient lighting and putting in reflective radiator panels.  A planning permission application has been submitted for external wall insulation for twenty-seven homes, which are eligible for ECO funding, with a view to completing installation before the end of the year.

We have learned a lot during this pilot about the Green Deal and ECO and how best to engage with and serve our communities. While we have achieved a great deal, it hasn’t always been easy and there still remain some barriers that we need to address in order to get as many homes improved as possible, but we won’t be giving up any time soon.

As a result of this pilot, the Low Carbon Hub have developed a partnership with Insulation NE to access ECO funding and install energy-saving measures in even more local homes this winter.   The extended ‘Warming Oxford’ programme will be available to the neighbouring deprived parts of the city; Cowley, Littlemore, Iffley and Headington.

Warming Barton and Warming Oxford are major project within the OxFutures initiative for Oxfordshire – an EU funded project to mobilise investment in energy improvements.  Through OxFutures we will fund further energy improvements including three hundred domestic retrofits and fourteen community-owned renewable energy projects; steering Oxfordshire towards a bright and sustainable future.

9 Responses to “Warming Barton – A warmer winter in Oxford’s East end”

  1. Daniel says:

    It has been almost a year now since this article was published. I’m just wondering where things stands and if the fact that DECC announced the Pioneer Places grant (with Barton leading the chart) actually had the impact that was expected. Would love to hear a first-hand experience.

  2. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

  3. Renewable energy can be particularly suitable for developing countries. In rural and remote areas, transmission and distribution of energy generated from fossil fuels can be difficult and expensive. Producing renewable energy locally can offer a viable alternative.

  4. Will Hawkins says:

    Good to hear about what’s happening with Green Deal activity. I’d like to hear more examples like this when heat pumps are used for use in our magazine, Heat Pumps Today.

  5. Great to see ECO money doing what it was intended for.

  6. Jennifer Carr says:

    Thanks for your comments on our blog – it would be great to hear more about similar work you are doing in Cambridge.

    With regards funding, Barton is in one of the 15% most deprived areas therefore does qualify for the Carbon Saving Communities branch of ECO funding which we have accessed by working with delivery partners Insulation NE. ECO funding primarily covers solid wall, cavity wall and loft insulation and is limited for the system build type homes in Barton. As a result we have also had to top up the funding from our small City Council fuel poverty budget to provide insulation free of charge for householders.

    Generally companies can access ECO funding as a package of several measures made up from Affordable Warmth, Carbon Saving Communities and Carbon Emissions Reduction Obligation strands of ECO but this usually only leads to part funding. However, if you have access to a number of (relatively easy) cavity wall and/or loft insulations, this helps companies increase the spend available for the more expensive insulation measures such as external wall insulation. We found that it is harder to get funding if you only have a small number of homes – energy companies prefer larger scale projects.

    This project was delivered by our partner Low Carbon Hub who applied for planning permission on behalf of local residents.

    The success of the project is due in no small part to the Hub’s drive to engage with the local community and to resource the project management on the ground including working with local energy assessors and delivery of the planning application.

    If you want any further information please get in touch, or contact the Low Carbon Hub directly.

  7. Jo Dicks says:

    Hi this is a really positive story, we are doing similar work here in Cambridge -I am particularly interested in the group planning aplication -is this local authority led? or has the application been brought by the community group or individual householders?

  8. John Watts says:

    I bet these people did not have to wait for their XML file and EPR report so that their providers can continue with the Green Deal. Try getting in touch with DECC all they do is laugh. I paid for my assessment end of January, need external insulation. Still freezing. Is GD anagram of HIPS.

  9. Brian Cox says:

    WE have the same kind of houses on an estate in the south of Cambridge. Same situation public ones already externally insulated, private ones not. WE wonder how you get to qualify for ECO ? Is the area an ECO area or are the individual residents qualifying due to low income etc.
    Would appreciate you feedback.

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