Report of the Director of Environment for Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council enclosed.
The Joint Scrutiny Committee received a presentation from Gareth Nutt, the Director of Environment at Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council (NPTCBC), on the regional Homes as Power Stations (HAPs) project, which was led by NPTCBC. He advised Members that it had not been possible to arrange a site visit today to view the project as the site was not safe to access. He confirmed however that a site visit would be arranged as soon as construction had been completed.
The project aimed to deliver smart, low carbon, energy efficient homes through a co-ordinated approach across the City Region through a combination of new builds (3,300) and retrofit (7,000). It was hoped that the project would stimulate the local supply chain and sustain a skilled workforce. The project would be monitored and evaluated going forward to evidence its energy efficiency, effects on health and its ‘livability’. The project aligns itself with the decarbonisation agenda and aims to reduce fuel poverty.
The Director advised that there were schemes under development in all four of the counties. It was hoped that approval would be received from both the UK and Welsh Governments following the workshop scheduled to take place in September which would then enable a programme team to be established to deliver on the wider programme ambitions.
Following the presentation Members raised the following points and the Director provided the associated responses:
· During the five year delivery programme, how realistic were the target numbers of new build and retrofit properties? In response, the Director advised that there was an affordable housing targets were not being achieved across the region and it was envisaged that HAPs would help to address this.
· How would HAPs work in a local authority without housing stock? The authority would work through the Registered Social Landlords.
· Members queried the cost-effectiveness of the various models that could be used to deliver homes as power stations. In response, the Director advised that the aim was to deliver properties that would be energy positive, although an analysis of the various models of HAPs would need to be carried out in order to identify the cost-benefits of different approaches. This would help to identify models that could be adopted, standardised and scaled up.
· In relation to the scheme in Pontardawe, Members were interested to note that this was a private sector development and noted that NPT Council had been able to facilitate this through a land deal with the investor. Members were disappointed to note the limited private sector involvement more broadly.
· In relation to the various models of HAPs being developed across the City Deal Region, Members asked whether all of these would be progressed and were advised that the Director wanted to keep all types of HAPs within the project to allow for evaluation of the different approaches so as to identify the best value options.
· Members noted that the project in Neath would become occupied over September and that the site visit would be convened as soon as practical.
· It was acknowledged that the involvement and scale of the private sector investment was planned to be significant and would be a challenge to achieve particularly in the medium to long term.
· Members asked for a breakdown of the HAPs targets by local authority and the Director advised that this would be circulated to Members of the Committee with the minutes.
· Members asked at what stage would the different models being trialled be coalesced as one project and noted that once the Business Case was approved a Programme Team would be established which would bring together the different strands. Once these were up and running they would then be evaluated for the best options. The Director advised that some house builders and mortgage lenders were already on board.
· In relation to the additional costs to new build properties this would be in the region of a 40% increase, although it was hoped to reduce this to 10%.
· Members asked how robust was the equipment and were advised that occupiers would receive induction training into the use of the equipment.
· Members asked whether the generation of the anticipated 4,500 jobs was deliverable in the time frame and were assured that, once approval had been given, there were 900 retro fit properties ready for work to begin. There was a small risk however the four local authorities involved were on board with the project.