Derbyshire Dales Retrofit

Derbyshire Dales District Council is committed to supporting residents in reducing domestic emissions. The age and type of many homes in the Dales represents a challenge, with many stone built 'hard to treat' properties requiring a bespoke approach.

36 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

6
Est. number of people
who benefit directly

Wide view of the almshouses showing the solar panels.
Work in progress: one of the properties stripped back.
Completed works: a light, bright energy efficient space.

Our story

by Derbyshire Dales Council

The Council has worked in partnership with local trustees of the Harrison Almshouse Trust and local trades to retrofit and renovate six stone built energy inefficient cottages in the market town of Matlock. Renovations of the two more are ongoing, when the scheme completes 36t of CO2e will be saved annually with residents feeling the benefit of warmer and more comfortable homes. The scheme is a real life exemplar of what can be done to tackle energy inefficiency, emissions and fuel poverty in hard to treat properties where methods such as external wall insulation are not appropriate.

The Council is committed to supporting residents to reduce emissions from housing and tackle fuel poverty throughout the district and this project is one of a number of retrofit schemes that the Council is leading on the delivery of.

Built in 1895, the Harrison Almshouse Trust cottages are a well loved feature of the historical spa town of Matlock. They provide much needed centrally located affordable homes for local people but over recent years maintenance has become more expensive and more frequent, depleting the limited funds held by the trustees.

Employing a fabric first approach the cottages were assessed to ensure that the scheme of works would achieve the desired outcomes with minimal disruption to residents. Support from the trustees was key. The completed homes now benefit from energy efficiency improvements including solar panels, insulated floors, triple glazed windows and doors, internal wall insulation, loft insulation, new boilers and heating controls. Additional renovation works included new kitchens, walk in showers and new electrical installations providing fit for purpose modern accommodation.

Using a bespoke solution managed by a local design company, Hope Design, the project has delivered quality through each stage of the renovation. Employing a series of local tradespeople has ensured a personal approach, appropriate to the property type and their residents. The cottages showcase how older properties can be sympathetically upgraded to protect their heritage whilst providing modern living that includes energy efficiency. This is particularly important in the context of the district where 45.3% of properties were constructed before 1944, many are stone built and 'hard to treat' - needing a carefully considered holistic approach.

By creating an exemplar project the Council is keen to share the learnings both within the Council and with partners through the LAEP and beyond. The transformation of these homes shows what can be done, and the type of challenges we will face if we plan to retrofit an estimated 27 million homes nationally by 2050.

The Council used grant funding from the government Local Authority Delivery GHG scheme to part fund the works, with the remainder coming from the the Council's capital programme.

Our advice

It is important to understand your locality, and what will work in the context of your housing stock and your residents. A district wide stock condition survey in 2019 was important in giving such context - identifying that 34.1% of homes in the Derbyshire Dales were built before 1918 and that 8.9% of our residents were living in fuel poverty.

The district is largely rural with a rich housing stock, several conservation areas and is, in part, a National Park. The Council was already engaged in trying to reduce fuel poverty and emissions in some areas of the district, targeting some of the easier to treat non traditional and solid brick built properties through external wall insulation schemes.

However, we knew that we needed to develop our experience in tacking the challenge of the 'heard to treat' properties - building an understanding of our local capability and capacity. In reality the idea for the project stemmed from a conversation between our Director of Housing and the trustees of the almshouses around their ongoing issues in maintaining the properties to a high standard, while continuing to provide affordable accommodation for their tenants.

They had been taking a piece meal approach to renovations, as and when they were able to fund the works but were keen to support a whole house approach. Seeing an opportunity to provide specific support to the trustees and residents, to stimulate our local 'green economy' and to develop experience the project was developed.

Support of the Council was vital in engaging a local trusted delivery partner who we knew would approach the project sympathetically while seeking to deliver value for money. This kind of work is invasive and messy. Buy in from residents was key, particularly considering the vulnerable nature of some of the tenants. Selecting the right delivery partner meant that this aspect of the project worked well, and continues to meet our expectations. We are already conducting surveys on other similar properties in the district with a view to replicating the scheme.

Using a local project manager who knew the local contractors was key to keeping costs within budget and providing employment to local firms. It also allowed timely purchasing of items like kitchen units to benefit from discounts etc. The almshouse trustees needed help and support from the Council and the project manager. Without technical support to develop the specification of works, tender and engage contractors etc it would have been very challenging. The Council funded the revenue cost of the Project Manager via a grant to the Trust. The Council also funded the capital works.

Ultimately the project has delivered a model that works and can be replicated across the district. The almshouse properties already had relatively new gas boilers installed. Had this not been the case an alternative heating source would have been explored.

Our metrics

  • Number of almshouses renovated.
  • EPC ratings on the completed properties (which have improved to B ratings).
  • Estimated CO2e annual savings (six tonnes per property).

Read more: https://www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/your-council/news-and-publications/latest-news/3286-upgrade-for-historic-almshouses

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