Cranbrook heating woes could be sorted with developers’ millions

A £6m contribution will be made from developers towards Cranbrook and other new developments on the edge of Exeter becoming zero carbon – and hopefully end the frustration of residents who say they have been faced with endless power outages leaving them without heating or hot water.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Residents in Monkerton, Tithebarn and Westclyst have been faced with endless power outages leaving them without heating or hot water, and alongside Cranbrook, the areas are heated by a district heating network provided by E.ON.

But those already living in the area say the system is blighted by problems, some saying that they have been forced to buy a plug-in electric heater as they don’t trust the heating system.

A proposal has though been submitted based on securing a connection from the Energy from Waste plant to both the Cranbrook/Skypark and Monkerton heating networks which would take the form of a trunk heat main carrying hot water under pressure.

East Devon District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday morning almost unanimously backed the proposals that will help find a ‘cost effective solution that can be delivered at scale and at pace’ for the area around Cranbrook and Monkerton.

The district energy network to meet a zero carbon standard, rather than rely on fabric and renewable energy measures on each home, will serves the region, and will ultimately connect 12,000 homes and 2m sqm of commercial space.

There is a requirement for all homes to be connected to a district heating network became a key part of the planning strategy for Cranbrook and the neighbouring Skypark commercial development, with all homes tied into a contract with EON.

Together there are now over 100km of heat pipe in the ground, while the first permanent energy centre at Skypark was commissioned in 2013 and a second energy centre, currently under construction at Monkerton, is due to be commissioned later this year.

Picture of the E.on centre, the heating pipes, and the heating unit. Image shown to the EDDC planning meeting. (Image: EDDC planning meeting)

Planning permission for the energy centre had previously been granted and that in recognition of the need to ensure that the district heating network would meet increasingly stringent carbon performance standards for the first 2,900 homes at Cranbrook, the section 106 legal agreement attached to the planning permission included the provision of a solid biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system.

But with the benefit of further technical advice, councillors heard that it was accepted that the gasification and pyrolysis technologies, which it was hoped would be scalable, as well as being more efficient and lower cost than traditional steam based technology, had not matured sufficiently in the decade since the section 106 agreement was negotiated to provide a reliable way forward.

Instead, the energy from waste (EfW) plant at Hill Barton, which is due to start construction during the summer of 2021 and be operational by the summer of 2023, has been taken forward as the preferred method of providing the district heating network.

A proposal has been submitted based on securing a connection from the EfW plant to both the Cranbrook/Skypark and Monkerton networks. This would take the form of a trunk heat main carrying hot water under pressure, and will enable connections to the two existing concession agreements totalling circa 8,000 homes and 2m sq ft of commercial space as well as the potential to serve the Cranbrook expansion areas (an additional 4,000 homes).

In light of the revised plans, councillors agreed to convert the obligation to install solid biomass CHP in to a financial obligation to be fixed at £6m, which will be taken as a payment in kind in relation to the extra over costs for the rerouting/future proofing of the Eastern Transmission Main which to be delivered in 2021/22.

The future proofing of the Eastern Transmission Main and its use to serve the expansion areas is critical to making sure that a key policy provision of the Cranbrook Plan can be achieved and that the ongoing roll out of district heating is both seamless and cost effective.

And Cllr Kim Bloxham, who represents Cranbrook, said this should solve the issues of the interruptions some residents have where their heating supplies are cutting out.

She added: “This reflects the views of the town to drive forward with a low carbon solution and it deliver the much needed the Eastern Transmission Main to ensure the eastern part of Cranbrook and its Eastern Expansion is well served with district heating, as without the main, we will continue to have interruptions to supply to some of the residents from the temporary energy centres.

“Low carbon is essential and this presents a way forward for delivery and a pathway to deliver an alternative form of heat and I look forward to working with officers to take this forward.”

The meeting heard from Andy Wood, service lead for growth, development & prosperity, that utilising waste heat from the EfW plant will therefore bring forward the timing of the transition away from gas, the inclusion of the Monkerton network, which will ultimately serve 4,600 homes as well as Exeter Science Park, and will both add scale and achieve accelerated carbon savings,

He added that the future proofing of the Eastern Transmission Main and its use to serve the expansion areas is critical to making sure that a key policy provision of the Cranbrook Plan can be achieved and that the ongoing roll out of district heating is both seamless and cost effective.

Councillors, with one abstention, voted to note the further technical work that has been undertaken to support the delivery of low and zero carbon development in the West End of the District and agree the principle of the proposed Deed of Variation for the £6m payment in lieu of the CHP.