‘The house was falling apart around us’: Family plagued by damp react to funding announcement
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A resident has opened up on how her family home has been affected by years of damp and mould amid the announcement of a £2.6 million fund to rectify long-running insulation issues.
The Welsh Government awarded Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) £2.65 million to carry out “essential remedial work” on properties in Caerau in the Llynfi Valley that were affected by poor insulation installations 10 years ago.
Internal and external insulation was fitted at 104 properties in Caerau between 2012 and 2013 as part of schemes aimed at helping residents in Wales’ poorest areas pay their fuel bills.
Homes in Caerau that were subject to poor installations suffered issues such as damp, mould and structural damage.
One resident, Rhiannon Goodall, whose house has been in the family for generations, said it has been “upsetting” to see it in its current state.
She said: “It is really upsetting and even more so for my mother because it was her family home before mine.
“She lived here when she was a little girl and to see the house pretty much falling apart around us is really upsetting for all of us.”
Rhiannon, 38, said she was initially told that the insulation would reduce bills.
However, she claimed that all it did was “cause damp”.
She added: “In the beginning it wasn’t really noticable, but as the months went on the paint on my wall started to peel from the damp and the plaster started to bubble.”
Rhiannon, who shares the house with her husband, Wayne, and daughter, Lili May, claimed that the issues have also caused health problems for the family.
She said: “It does affect our health. My husband is disabled. Every night he is on a CPAP machine because he has got severe sleep apnea.
“We get severe mould and some sort of rot. It does affect his breathing.
“I used to have very mild asthma, but it has affected me at times. It has affected my daughter’s skin, where she has had eczema and patches.”
‘I’ll believe it when I see it’
Energy efficiency work on properties in Caerau was carried out under three differerent schemes.
The work on properties in Caerau fell under several schemes, including the Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT) scheme, Communtiy Energy Saving Programme (CESP) scheme, and the Welsh Government’s Arbed scheme.
BCBC was directly involved with work on 25 of the 104 properties that had insulation installed – seperate to the work that came under the CESP and CERT initiatives.
Rhiannon’s house was signed up to the CESP scheme and the work was carried out by a company sub-contracted by Green Renewable Wales Ltd. Both companies no longer exist.
Reacting to the Welsh Government’s newly announced funding, Rhiannon said: “I was happy to hear that the funding had been agreed in principle, but I have lost all faith in the Government and what they say because we have had so many promises over the years for things to be put right.
“I am at the stage where I will believe it when I see it. I will believe it when the scaffolding goes up outside.
“I have had so many let downs and people say things that just never materialise.”
The new funding aimed at rectifying the issues in Caerau is subject to the submission by BCBC, and assessment by Welsh Government, of a “satisfactory and detailed” business case and project proposal by the end of February 2022.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have agreed to joint fund with the local authority, the works required to remedy the situation householders are experiencing and have asked Bridgend County Borough Council to present a detailed project plan by the end of February so that the Local Authority led remedial work can begin without any further unnecessary delay.”
“Domestic energy efficiency retrofit standards have improved since this project was completed, with the introduction of PAS 2030 and 2035 in 2019.
“When installed correctly, cavity and external wall insulation can make a significant contribution to reduced carbon emissions and fuel bills, while improving comfort for householders.”
Work on the 25 properties that Bridgend council facilitated the funding for was carried out by Green Renewable Wales.
However, Green Renewable Wales and their sub-contractors also worked on some of the 79 properties that the council were not involved with, including Rhiannon’s property, which came under the CESP initative.
A spokesperson for Bridgend County Borough Council said: “Confirmation that Welsh Government is to provide £2.65m to help correct failing wall insulation work carried out in Caerau back in 2012-13 is extremely welcome news, particularly as Bridgend County Borough Council has long called for the development of an overall solution which looks at all 104 premises which received the work and not just the 25 homes that the council facilitated the funding for.
“While it remains hugely disappointing that the failing insulation needs to be addressed less than a decade after it was carried out, this funding will go some way towards addressing the problem for householders irrespective of whether the wall insulation work was sourced privately through individual businesses, energy providers or the local council.
“It will ensure that local homes, some of which are very old, can benefit from high-quality internal and external wall insulation as per the original aims of the initiative, and will also improve the standard of the premises as well as the lives of local residents.”