FENLAND: We take a look at progress on Roddons' �35million home improvement scheme

WHEN Roddons Housing Association took over Fenland District Council s housing stock, it pledged to spend �35million on improvements to homes and communities. But how is progress so far? TOM JACKSON took a look.

WHEN Roddons Housing Association took over Fenland District Council's housing stock, it pledged to spend �35million on improvements to homes and communities.

But how is progress so far? TOM JACKSON took a look.

STREETS are tidier, homes are being heated much cheaper and disabled access has been improved for residents, as Roddons aims to reach a decent homes standard by next year.

When the housing association was formed 15 months ago, it promised to spend �35million on improvements to kitchens and bathrooms, gardens and neighbourhoods to make them safer and better places to live.

Pauline Ford, Roddons' managing director, said: "It is one of the critical promises we are committed to delivering, but our standards will be much higher than the minimum national standards."

I went on a tour of Fenland with Mrs Ford to look at some of the work carried out so far.

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It started with a visit to Russell Avenue and Peyton Avenue in March, where off-road parking spaces have been built and kitchens have been replaced.

Mrs Ford said: "The work is taking parked cars off the road and lifting the streets' environment."

One resident, Margaret Randall, has lived in Peyton Avenue for 60 years and had the same kitchen throughout that time - until a couple of months ago.

Of her new kitchen, the 72 year old said: "I am very pleased with it. I was able to choose the style of worktops and cupboards that I wanted and the service was very good.

"I even had a new bathroom fitted, off-road parking and rewiring done at the same time. I am very pleased with it all."

Some of the work has centred on alternative heating methods for homes in some of Fenland's more remote areas.

"One third of our stock is not connected to mains gas," said Mrs Ford. "We need to provide the most efficient options possible to our customers."

One place such a problem is faced is in Christchurch, where a trial is ongoing with ground source heat pumps. Piping is drilled deep into the ground and a mixture of water and antifreeze inside the pipe absorbs heat from the ground.

The in-house heating pump is the size of a refrigerator, but initial tests suggest bills could be reduced significantly.

Sharon Marshall, of Crown Avenue, had storage heaters but now has a ground source heating system installed. She is expecting hundreds of pounds to be wiped off her bills.

"The system itself I am really happy with," she said. "If I could change one thing, it would be size of the pump because it has taken up a chunk of my hallway."

Our tour next took us to Wisbech, where work is ongoing to clean roofs, and to install fencing outside homes. Stow Road is one street where work is ongoing.

Mrs Ford said: "Stow Road is how, we hope, streets across Fenland will look when work is finished.

"When we took over the stock Stow Road had this mishmash of hedges, wire fencing and wooden fencing. Some of the fencing was also falling down, and roofs were covered with moss.

"We have provided off-road parking spaces, all with drop kerbs, and a consistent style of fencing. Roofs have also been cleaned. It now looks much cleaner."

Our final stop was set to be in Wisbech St Mary, where disabled adaptations including a level access shower have been made to a bungalow. An air source heating system, which absorbs heat from the outside air to warm your home, is also installed to reduce the couple's energy bills.

When we visited the couple were not at home.

• A decent home is classed as one which is fit for occupation, in good repair, has a reasonably modern kitchen and bathroom facilities, and is warm.

• To share your experience with Roddons under its improvement scheme, contact Tom on 01354 652621 or email thomas.jackson@archant.co.uk.