A FIRST-of-its-kind £200m scheme aimed at cutting energy bills and tackling fuel poverty has started making an impact, with a retired North-East couple among the first to benefit.

Under Warm Up North, announced last summer, eligible residents and businesses can get solid wall insulation, loft insulation and more, much part- or fully-funded by British Gas under its green obligations.

The deal, covering Darlington, County Durham, Redcar and Cleveland, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle and Northumberland, was the first such multi-area partnership in the country and could eventually benefit 50,000 households and businesses.

Sam and Mavis Bate, of Peterlee, east Durham, got a new combi boiler and radiator valves plus having their central heating system flushed through, all free of charge.

Mr Bate, 73, a former oil company contractor, said: “Without the help of Warm Up North I don’t know what we would have done, as we just wouldn’t have been able to afford to have had a new boiler fitted.

“The team was fantastic, they were very easy to deal with and the local contractors who completed the installation work have done a marvellous job.”

For more information on Warm Up North, call 0800-294-8073 or visit warmupnorth.com