Sustainable Uist: Hard to Treat Housing Conference

Over the past six months, community organisation Sustainable Uist has been carrying out a research project into the prospects for improving the energy efficiency of older, traditionally-built houses in the Outer Hebrides.

Many of these properties, which amount to approximately half of all island homes, are classified as ‘Hard to Treat’ under the Energy Saving Trust’s Home Insulation Scheme, and as such haven’t qualified for assistance with additional wall and loft insulation. Surveying work for the HIS scheme on the Uists and Barra was completed in November 2010 and installation work on the 400 or so qualifying houses is expected to be completed by Easter this year.

“Whilst we are surprised and delighted by the HIS results, I’m sure that many Uist residents will have been disappointed that their houses didn’t qualify for help under the Home Insulation Scheme,” said Sustainable Uist Chair Steve Carter. “We hope that for these residents, this project will offer some hope of the prospect of reduced heating bills in the near future.”

On the 27th and 28th January, Sustainable Uist, supported by the Climate Challenge Fund, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Kingspan Insulation, is hosting a conference on the subject of Hard to Treat housing on the Island of Benbecula. Nearly 50 delegates are attending representing a wide range of organisations including MSPs Dr Alasdair Allan and Rhoda Grant, and Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil. Delegates will listen to presentations on the latest situation with Hard to Treat Housing in the Western Isles and the latest ideas on improvements, funding and the organisation of large scale housing insulation projects. Speakers include representatives from the Energy Saving Trust, Changeworks, Historic Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the insulation industry.

The project has the backing of local Councillors and Council officials as well as local MSP Alastair Allan who supported Sustainable Uist’s application to the Climate Challenge Fund which is funding the research work.

“Apart from looking forward to attending Sustainable Uist’s conference and learning more on the invaluable research carried out so far, I am hopeful of the long-term benefits these efforts will bring to households throughout the constituency and beyond,” said Alasdair Allan MSP. “Fuel poverty is an issue always high on the agenda when speaking to constituents burdened by ever-increasing heating costs. Rightly so. However, escalating fuel costs represent only one factor in this issue – whereas poor insulation also contributes: largely unnoticed. While the Home Insulation Scheme assisted many households in this respect, there remain many more who stand to benefit from Sustainable Uist’s commendable work.”