The Government recognise the important contribution made by district heating schemes where they are commercially viable. The operation of the two schemes mentioned by my hon. Friend is, however, a matter for the Commission for the New Towns, which is answerable to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
Is the Minister aware that many of my constituents in the Felmores and Langdon Hills area, of Basildon are completely dissatisfied with the district heating system, believing it to be expensive and inefficient? In the light of the great success enjoyed by Sid, will my hon. Friend do everything in his power to encourage the Commission for the New Towns to install individual gas-fired central heating?
I very much regret the problems experienced by my hon. Friend's constituents. I understand that the former New Town Development Corporation asked the Department of the Environment to consider agreeing in principle to the replacement of the Felmores estate district heating system with independent systems for each dwelling. Last summer the Department of the Environment invited the Commission for the New Towns to carry out an analysis of that option and of the alternative of retaining the district heating systems with improvements. That analysis is still awaited.