22 April: edited to correct the link above, and offer direct download.
Our recent All Residents’ Meeting felt like a great success to me. We had the best attendance that I can remember: at least 70 people were present. That’s more than we’re allowed in the Energy Centre! Some people said they prefer online meetings, for a variety of reasons including child care, anxiety, and mobility. So, we’ll think about mixed meetings, when we’re allowed to use the Energy Centre again.
We had a lot of questions and comments in the chat: nearly 200! Some, we weren’t able to get to on the day. But that’s OK: it means people were able to make points and ask questions that they would not otherwise have been able to make. And I hope to answer some of those questions here.
I grouped together your questions and comments, and won’t repeat them all, but hopefully you’ll find your questions answered here: at least, as far as possible. Oh, I’ve not mentioned any names, but will do if you like!
Can [Angela] recap on what the formal boards who hold JRHT to account are, and how you can join these?
Angela mentioned three boards:
Unfortunately, none meet in public, or publish their minutes, or have resident representation. However, she did say “They have asked that the next … resident engagement strategy is co-produced with residents and they are keen to consider options for how residents’ voices are heard at the Board- which could include a resident board member. They are very open-minded about options at the moment.” So, we look forward to working to improve that.
But there’s also DPAC which JRHT established with the council before the estate was built, and DGG which JRHT and the DRA established to agree joint policy. And DRA which represents residents to JRHT and other external groups. And lots of community groups, and the Community Activity Network. So there are lots of ways to get involved.
ESTATE MANAGEMENT FEE
I’d be interested to know how the “future provision” is calculated, benchmarked against those on other communities, and is the money ring-fenced – i.e. in the bank somewhere.
DGG do get a breakdown when consulted on future price changes. Two years in a row DGG have successfully challenged price increases. This year there’s no increase, because we thought the reserves were sufficient. The money is ring-fenced in JRHT accounts, as is usual for this kind of thing.
Is the handover [from DWH to JRHT] complete?
No, but JRHT have taken on some of DWH landscaping work, because their subcontractor ceased working during lockdown. JRHT are charging the work back to DWH pending completion.
Two people were concerned about grass being left to grow. One mentioned that dog waste tends to get left in long grass.
This kind of “meadow management” has been employed to benefit nature, and keep the estate management fee low. DGG is looking at creating a “landscape management plan”, which will set policies after consultation with residents. In the mean time, if you have concern over a particular spot, please let JRHT know, and copy us in!
How can we get involved with the landscaping sub-group?
It’s a proposed subgroup of Derwenthorpe Governing Group. Contact the chair of DGG
What is happening about the central area near the flats?
Sadly, JRHT want to use the compound for phase 5. We don’t want that to happen, but if it does, we’ll push for much better boundaries around the compound so that it’s less of an eye-sore, and to reduce nuisance. We’ve been gathering comments that will us help with this.
We (residents) have been asked to co-design the area for future use. The ABC:D group is looking to develop community facilities generally, and this area in particular. And they’re looking for your help to do it. Please read about what they’re doing, and how you can help them to help you to get a really good focus site for the community.
Will the power lines and tower remain in phase 5?
Yes they will, I’m afraid. Unfortunately, we’re told it proved impossible to get permission to bury the lines from the landowners. Perhaps it would be worth having another go, but the costs of undergrounding power lines are also huge. Probably five or even six figures.
If the council adopts the roads will this incur any additional cost to residents?
There is no charge for roads maintenance in the estate management fee. So there should be no costs to us.
Will Seebohm Mews surfacing be part of this? Some of the raised manholes are wicked.
It’s not planned for this year, unfortunately.
Can JRHT provide plan and timescale for these outstanding works?
Beyond the plans for this year, and phase five by the end of 2022, we’ve not been given any timescales. Sadly, it’s hard to predict these things, so I’d even take those time scales with a pinch of salt.
I think there are going to be a lot of specific questions relating to maintenance (and finishing) parts of the estate. Is there some forum where these questions could be posted and answered after proper consideration?
Yes, we’re looking to set something up. JRHT are, too. I think what’s needed is something where the questions and answers are available to everyone: to avoid duplication, if nothing else! If you have skills in this area, please come forward to help!
How many more phases are there going to be? Just when I think it’s finished they’re building more? So we’re ending up with less space.
Phase five will be the end of it. The master plan shows no more phases. Even if JRHT wanted to add more, they’d have to go through planning where they’d have a really hard time. But I don’t think they want to. Caveat: the master plan does allow a few more houses on phase three, but I understand the JRHT board has ruled that out.
The standing charge appears to be not good value for money
What services do we get for the standing charge?
Supply and maintenance of your heat interface unit, which should be compared with the prices of purchase, installation, and maintenance of the alternative (a gas boiler, or air source heat pump). But mainly, I suspect, the standing charge is imposed to pay the capital cost of the whole system: in the expectation that we won’t be buying much heat. I don’t think it’s worked out that way.
Which measure of inflation do they use [when calculating standing charge increases]?
RPI: as per our heating contracts. There’s an argument that CPI would have been more reasonable!
It does seem unfair to those who try to economise on energy costs that the fixed charge is so high.
Agreed. Perhaps Veolia would agree to a better balance for new contracts, but rebalancing existing contracts would be harder since everyone would have to agree.
Is the system still leaking several m3 of hot water a day/week?
We understand that a large leak was fixed last year.
I seem to remember at a previous meeting of ARM, that there are inefficiencies in the system, through heat loss on the piping to and from the SSC. How is this going to be progressed?
This is a common problem with district heating systems. There are several technical options, and Veolia are working on some of them. The simple options are to modify flow so that the return pipes run cool, and lose less heat. That’s what Veolia are trying. Some systems use 30°C flow and 20°C return, with heat pumps in the houses, and retrofit might be possible: but that is not proposed.
We’re asking Veolia for transparent reporting on system efficiency. It’s important for the environment, but fortunately we don’t pay for the inefficiency: the formula only charges for the fuel used to produce the heat that you consume, not the heat lost to the ground. So, while Veolia then have every incentive to improve the system efficiency, such improvements won’t reduce our costs.
There was some talk about upgrading the consumer units on the late phases a while ago and these upgrade were to be tried in some houses. Was there ever any progress / feed back on this?
Limited progress was made. The intention was to reduce the return temperature, and therefore the system losses (see above). Veolia think they have another solution to that problem. We’ll try to find out whether that’s worked!
What % of wood chip are they now burning?
They’ve budgeted for 45% in the next 12 months, and say that’s what they burned last year. Up from 5% in the previous 12 months. That’s possible because they recently commissioned a second wood chip boiler, which can be switched on at lower demand levels.
How are CO2 emissions of gas versus wood chips?
That depends on who you ask! I’ve been checking the academic literature, and it seems to depend on several things. It depends on where the wood comes from, how the land is used later, and so on. Transport costs are important, but one day will be electric lorries running on renewable electricity. The good news is that we could choose to burn more gas, or more wood, without impacting the prices to us: as long as the Renewable Heat Incentive grants offset the higher cost. RHI grants require that we use sustainable source, and we’re told that our wood comes from Yorkshire.
What are they doing to bring the cost down?
The formula doesn’t offer any solutions, I’m afraid. All the inputs to the formula (the price of fuel, and the Renewable Heat Initiative) are outside Veolia’s control. While they’re making a loss, it’s unlikely they’d want to change the contract in a way that brings our costs down. All efficiency improvements would help them, though, which is a good incentive for them to do the right thing by the environment.
Shall we pop a nuclear reactor in there? 😉
Haha! Like, these ones from Rolls Royce?! I think they’re a bit big, though, apart from anything else!
In the long term, air-source heat pumps can be thought of to install in lofts
Yes, that could offset some of your heat charge, and would work well in Stephenson Quarter where you have MVHR, so could feed hot air directly into all your rooms. We should study the economics.
Why are the houses so cold in winter so you have to have heating on full, and why are the floors so freezing, and the front door has a constant draft?
Suffer that same, house red hot during summer and ice cold in winter. Can’t put heating on all the time due to cost per unit.
Your house should be airtight. If there’s air leaking into the house, then it needs fixing. The heating system should be able to cope if the thermostat/timer is set correctly. We have some tips on how to keep your house cool in summer in our house guide.
Can we have a thermal camera and someone to inspect houses with a draft
A thermal camera can be borrowed from York Community Energy for a small donation. We’ll think about getting one for the DRA.
Does DPAC advise with regards to service suppliers too? If so, is there any idea or appetite to see if using single suppliers for internet and heating can be reversed over a long term?
That would be DGG, more than DPAC. DPAC is more focussed on development issues; DGG on longer term policies. Each of Veolia and PureFibre has a fixed term contract, at the end of which they’ll compete for renewal. However, the heating contract is 30 years: so a lot can happen before then. The Internet contract may be better as a single supplier, as that allows us to share the infrastructure costs better. For example, if there were two providers, it’s possible that neither could afford to keep an engineer on site. But certainly, residents need to take a big part in shaping the future of both services.
Solar panels website item will be updated soon. Some 23 houses now have panels as a result of this residents’ group initiative.
That’s a great result, and show what can happen when people work together. I really look forward to a report on the effectiveness of the panels: that could encourage even more people to follow suit.
I’m just going to sum this up by saying we had a really long discussion about this, and that the core team will organise a meeting on the topic!
Pure Fibre are our monopoly Internet Service Provider.
“very good value” “best we’ve ever had. Excellent speed and cheaper than our last 2 providers” “very happy”, though some people are still not seeing the speeds that others are seeing. One said “~20% of what was sold most of the time”, another said “I’m getting 760 down, 920 up at the moment”. You probably won’t see those fast speeds with wifi: you’ll need to plug into the Ethernet sockets in the wall.
Reliability seems much improved since the second uplink (to London) was installed in March 2020 (despite lockdown). We continue to engage with Pure Fibre to keep up to date with what they’re doing, and to push for further technical improvements.
Derwenthorpe in bloom competition?
We don’t have one, but there will be information about our annual Open Gardens event in the next edition of What’s On…
Any idea when the SSC will be open for activities like yoga classes?
We don’t know, I’m afraid.
We had a discussion around signage. DGG will pick up the issue, as we need to agree some kind of policy with JRHT.
Thank you for your kind comments.