When I started campaigning in Cowick in the autumn of 2010, I was introduced by Cllr Heather Morris to the Exonia Park Park Home site – a community of some 100 or so homes. What became obvious was that owners of these homes faced specific problems, many resulting to specific legislation relating to park homes [sometimes referred to mobile homes]
As a result of dealing with these problems, it became obvious that these problems would be faced by owners on the other park home sites across Exeter – The Rydons [St Loyes], Ringswell Park [Topsham] and Newport Park [Topsham]. To allow residents of these park sites have a stronger voice, Heather and I suggested setting up a city-wide Mobile Homes Residents Forum.
Set up in 2012, the Forum had its inaugural meeting on 23 May 2012. Since then, it has met regularly – at first 4 times a year, and latterly twice a year – with Heather as the Chair, and continues to be a successful way to address common concerns problems that residents living in park homes may have.
In May 2015, Heather was appointed Portfolio Holder for Customer Access and since park homes fall under her portfolio, she felt it was no longer appropriate to Chair the Forum. I was duly elected Chair of the Forum in her place at the meeting held on 25 October 2015.
As a Council, Exeter City Council has been aware that many park home properties have poor levels of insulation and the residents often find themselves in fuel poverty, and the Forum supported the Age UK campaign Don’t leave park homes out in the cold.
One of biggest problems that face park home owners is applying for the Green Deal grant which provides funding towards insulating homes. As a result, officers have been working up a scheme for Exeter’s park home residents – Exeter Warm and Healthy Park Homes grant which was launched at the Forum meeting held on 05 April 2016.
The Chair welcomed Peter Bywater, Senior Project Manager of Wessex Energy to the meeting.
Peter Bywater gave a presentation on the Exeter Healthy Park Homes Scheme [see below] which was yet to commence, and further comments on the presentation were as follows:
Once the concept of this new scheme is approved, there may be opportunities to contact other funders such as Public Health, who had committed some funding to similar schemes in Dorset.
Wessex Energy will oversee the grant, and qualifying households need to be over 50 years old and in a park home in the Exeter City Council area. Park homes need to be built prior to 1995. Any park homes built post 1995 could take advantage of other energy efficiency measures such as underfloor insulation which will be covered by the £2,000 grant.
Registered installers who are Members of the National Insulation Association will carry out works to properties, and where possible, local companies will be used. Background checks will be made on companies, including its directors, how works are installed and standards within the industry. Reference was made to the Buy With Confidence Scheme and Trading Standards would welcome working with Wessex Energy.
A decision has not yet been made on what heating repairs will be covered by the scheme.
Peter advised that the Energy Company Obligation [ECO] grant will be cut by about 50%, and by 2018 this will change to a fuel poverty led grant. A resident advised that some companies did not recognise the ECO grant. Residents may want to take this into account when considering switching energy provider.
The grant will come from Exeter City Council. A plea was made that the scheme is transparent. The application process had yet to be finalised, and it may involve a pre-survey. There was likely to be a priority list for clients to complete.
If the grant does not cover the total cost of the work, discussions would take place at the application stage in terms of an affordability check. Clients will then be able to prioritise works according to their means with indicative costs provided.
Peter advised that he was meeting with Wessex Loans the following day to discuss their affordability/vulnerability checks and the process around this.
Caroline Aird advised that Turn2Us was not necessarily the best site to obtain advice on grants as often ground rent and service charges are not included as in the case for park homes. Either the CAB or Citizens Advice Bureau would be happy to provide guidance.
The typical width of insulation is 90-110mm. However, it was noted that some park home owners are refusing installation on the grounds of the distance between park homes. Peter advised that they would need to look at this on a case by case basis.
Peter would welcome the opportunity to attend a future meeting once the scheme had been finalised, and the Forum welcomed this.