Cranbrook district heating discussed at EDDC strategic planning committee 

Cranbrook’s district heating supplier E.ON is being criticised once more following a major heating outage in the East Devon town last year.

Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter

More than 400 households were left without heating for over a week becuase of a technical fault.

Some people had to leave their homes and live elsewhere during the outage which coincided with an extreme cold spell.

The heating Cranbrook receives is currently unregulated, although a council officer said that government legislation could change that in the next 18 months.

Just before Christmas, residents met with East Devon’s MP Simon Jupp, E.ON leadership and several councillors to explain what went wrong.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Liberal Democrat, Broadclyst) said at a strategic planning committee meeting on Tuesday [14 February] that she was not at all convinced about E.ON’s ability to provide its customers with the necessary service.

“Nothing I saw reassured me that the residents of Cranbrook were entirely safe in the hands of E.ON at this point,” she said. “So, E.ON seem to be very good at producing heat, and they seem to be very good at taking the money from the people they know about, but everything in between appears to leave something to be desired.

“I think customer services is very much the obvious one there. It takes many, many reports to E.ON to actually get any reaction from them, and I was not reassured at all at that meeting when the engineers explained about the valves sticking.”

Cllr Dan Ledger (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton) added that E.ON had no response when asked about a technical detail.

“One of the questions that was asked at the meeting was, if the valves were stuck on, why did it cut off all the heating?” he pondered. “Why wasn’t it set to the opposite of heat constantly running through rather than cutting it off? They had no answer.”

The district council will now set up forums between E.ON and Cranbrook residents. Cllr Mike Howe (Conservative, Clyst Valley) said that these meetings need to have “physical teeth,” to hold the company to account and a legally binding agreement should be established so it delivers what is asked of it.

Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent East Devon Alliance, Yarty) agreed that E.ON “need to up their game,” although he is pleased that residents have now been compensated.

“I am heartened by this report which says all effective households have received their financial compensation before Christmas, and that E.ON provided director level representation,” he said. “And that’s where I think my love for E.ON will end.”

Cllr Kevin Blakey (Independent, Cranbrook) added that E.ON’s customer service was “worse than awful,” and that “we need to ask E.ON to get their act together.”