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Solar panels on Hackney's Pembury Estate spark row over riots and savings

PUBLISHED: 16:26 13 January 2012 | UPDATED: 16:56 13 January 2012

Solar panels on the Pembury Estate

Solar panels on the Pembury Estate

Archant

Solar panels fitted to a Hackney housing estate which saw some of the summer's worst rioting have got residents and onlookers hot under the collar.

Rows of almost 2,000 photovoltaic cells line the roofs of four buildings closest to Dalston Lane on the Pembury Estate.

The £1.2million government-funded scheme, undertaken by housing association Peabody, has sparked angry reactions in a national newspaper from some readers who felt it rewarded rioters after violence flared around the estate on August 8.

“Why are these ‘people’ who have a blatant disregard for our society and common decency being rewarded at the tax payers’ expense?” asked online commentator Dan Miller.

But tenants and leaseholders on the estate hit out at the picture painted of their neighbours and rather questioned the benefit and cost of the energy-saving project.

Power produced by the panels will be used to run communal lifts and lighting rather than cut residents’ electricity bills.

Ian Rathbone, of Pembury Tenants and Residents’ Association (PETRA), said: “Most of the people involved in the riots did not come from the Pembury Estate. They had nothing to do with it.

“Residents will not get any reduction in their bills from this scheme and the service charge they will have to pay is still being fought over.

“This is organised chaos and we want to know what benefit people will get from it.”

Steve Lord, chairman of PETRA, added: “If Peabody is keen to cut our energy costs, then how about fixing all the windows and doors which let in draughts which we have told it about?”

A spokesman for Peabody said residents would not have to pay anything towards the panels, which were connected last week, and that any surplus funds saved in the future would be reinvested in the trust’s housing stock.

‘Fuel poverty’

The cells will not be installed on the rest of the estate after the government’s clean energy cashback scheme was scrapped on December 12.

Peabody chief executive Steve Howlett criticised the move, saying solar panels would become “the preserve of the rich, rather than a way to tackle fuel poverty and reduce living costs for those in our society who are most vulnerable”.

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