THOUSANDS of people across the Tees Valley living without central heating and in fuel poverty look set to be given help to reduce their energy bills and improve their health.

The five Tees Valley councils alongside social landlords Thirteen Group and other community groups have applied to National Grid and Community Interest Company Affordable Warmth Solutions for £4m to increase comfort in non-gas, fuel poor households.

Councillors are optimistic the bid will be successful following another £4m bid being approved earlier this year only for it to be abandoned due to technical difficulties.

To maximise the impact of the funding, all properties which are to benefit are expected to be insulated to the recommended industry standards and bidders and their partners are encouraged to seek additional funding to ensure these standards are met.

The funding is to install first time central heating in homes that qualify under the project criteria. This includes both “on gas areas” and those “areas off gas”.

The priority will be to provide gas central heating to those who are able to access a gas supply. The councils say other measures can be provided to residents living in off gas rural areas.

A report to Darlington Borough Council’’s cabinet states all tenure types can benefit under the project, owner occupiers, private renters and those living in social housing. It states Darlington has a good opportunity to benefit from the project as fuel poverty levels, when last recorded in 2015, showed 14.1 per cent of residents were in fuel poverty, representing 6,663 households.

The borough has about 2,040 households not connected to the gas network. While many of those are in rural wards without a gas network there are still significant numbers in gas supply network areas not connected to a gas supply.

The report states: “This likely means that they are using expensive and inefficient electric heating systems. Those using electric heating systems are more likely to be in fuel poverty because running costs are significantly higher. There are approximately 2,600 households in Darlington that use electricity as their main source of heating.”

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, the council’s Stronger Communities portfolio holder, said subject to the bid being successful and being accepted by the consortium of councils the funding represented a great opportunity for Darlington residents who experience fuel poverty.

He said: “Not only will this keep people warm and improve their health, but it will give them a better quality of life because they will be saving money on their energy bills. We are committed through this project that people shouldn’t have to second think if they are going to put the heating on or feed themselves. This is just the starting point, we want to look to improve homes energy efficiency as much as possible in the future.”