Heating system burned its installation budget by £1m

Wauchope House residents had free heat. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Wauchope House residents had free heat. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A CONTROVERSIAL new heating system which gave free energy to residents of two tower blocks for 18 months burst its installation budget by £1 million, the News can reveal.

People living in Greendykes and Wauchope House in Niddrie were treated to almost £100,000 worth of free heating and hot water at public expense after installation problems with a £2.1m “super-boiler”.

Now additional and unforeseen work associated with the botched project has resulted in the bill soaring to £3.1m.

News of the cost hike, revealed in a new report, has been slammed by Tory councillor Jason Rust, who accused city leaders of trying to “gloss over” problems with the heating project.

He said: “The report is self-congratulatory about the completion of the work and more or less ignores that it was so much over the budget and took far longer than it should.

“It started off at a cost of £2.1m and has ended up costing £3.1m. There have also been a number of ongoing problems in terms of operation. This project has been bungled from start to finish.

“Lessons need to be learned. It is clear that retro-fitting this kind of system to an older building has had major problems and it may be the council should consider only fitting such heating systems in new-build property.”

One Wauchope House tenant, who asked not to be named, said she was “shocked” to learn of the soaring costs.

“It’s been worth it but I didn’t realise it would cost that much money,” she said.

“There are still ongoing problems at the moment. A whole lot of us are having to get our floorboards taken up again because they did not put copper pipes in for the new heating system.

“There are still quite a lot of flats that need to have their pipes replaced. I have not had mine done yet and I’m just waiting for a date for that.

“I think it’s pretty disgusting that they have spent so much money giving us free heating when it could have been spent on something so much more important.”

Residents in the two tower blocks only began paying a fortnightly £15 service charge late last month – even though construction of the heating system and most of the major pipework was completed by the end of 2012.

City chiefs admitted the project’s complexity had presented a range of challenges.

Councillor Cammy Day, housing leader, said: “This was a very ambitious project to retrofit a complex district heating system into older tower blocks.

“Some additional costs were incurred as the design of the system had to be adapted during the process of installation. Tenants in the block now 
benefit from a highly energy efficient, low cost heating and hot water system.”

He added: “These multi-storey blocks have been transformed and have made a significant contribution to the wider regeneration of Craigmillar.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com