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Northumberland County Council's retrofit action plan checklist

Northumberland County Council have drafted a retrofit action plan based on their learnings from the LGA Local Retrofit Action Planning (LRAP) training programme.

This case study is a part of the LGA's Regional Retrofit Action Planning programme

Priority area: financial planning

Action Required: Secure government funding for retrofit schemes

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: Staff capacity. Short term funding. Overlapping funding. Changes to funding delivery requirements.

Action: Prioritise freeing up staff capacity when funding windows open. Bid for everything available.

Outcome: Current status is good. However long term is uncertain, and only able to treat a fraction of possible homes. Provision of local grant funded retrofit schemes leading to improvements to energy efficiency of housing stock.

Action Required: Explore options for additional funding through ECO 4, Retrofit Credits etc

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: Lack of resource to administer LA Flex route.

Action: Requesting funding for ECO staff from ESNZ. Seeing where support can be provided within current funded roles (if signed off by ESNZ).

Outcome: Access to funded energy efficiency measures for low income and low EPC households. Providing a direct route for households to access support. May drive down market prices locally.

Priority Area: Developing Robust and Meaningful Data

Action Required: Develop housing stock condition data over a 5-year period

Start date: April 2023

Due Date: March 2028

Barriers: Internal capacity. SCS’s highlighting other area of priority within the stock.

Action: Utilise funding from grants to hire extra staff to develop these systems. Lobby for climate change action to become statutory, so that roles must be funded.

Outcome: NCC will have a clear path forward for stock retrofit. Allowing for financial planning, staff planning and resident engagement. Support reprofiling of the housing investment programme to realign priorities.

Action Required: Further develop energy data within IRT Dream

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: Staff capacity.

Action: Utilise funding from grants to hire extra staff to develop these systems

Outcome: Able to understand and reduce energy use in properties within NCC portfolio – helping us to reach local and national net zero and fuel poverty targets.

Priority Area: Training

Action Required: Roll out L2 Retrofit Awareness training to relevant officers within the Council

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: March 2024

Barriers: Cost

Action: Seek funding to cover the cost of the official training. Consider protecting officer time to create a simple, internal retrofit awareness training course so it can be delivered inhouse.  

Outcome: Increased awareness and understanding of the requirements of retrofit will create better staff and resident buy-in, in line with all ‘change’ projects. Will also facilitate more ‘long term’ thinking about works.

Action Required: Establish a partnership with the new Clean Energy Hub in Blyth to develop and nurture supply chain capacity, both internal and external to NCC

Start date: December 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: None

Action: Continue building relationships. Showing NCC is a great place to work and at the forefront of retrofit and climate work.

Outcome: Effective local delivery solutions. Resilient green economy. Local green jobs. Ensure a competent, skilled, and suitably qualified workforce.

Action Required: Develop inhouse capacity and knowledge to undertake thermal imaging

Start date: April 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: Training and equipment costs.

Action: Seek funding to cover costs. See what can be borrowed from other existing funding schemes so staff can get experience of the benefits.

Outcome: Build more internal capacity to develop knowledge of housing stock. Greater knowledge of effectiveness of historic CWI installations.

Priority Area: Strategic Planning

Action Required: Review of existing specifications for major improvement works and trial new technologies when opportunities arise.

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: Staff capacity. Knowledge of what measures are available and the practicalities of installing certain measures to different architypes. Funding. Uncertainties around suitability of tech.

Action: Staff training in retrofit, to help staff stay aware of what sorts of tech are needed in the future. Staff given opportunities for webinars/training etc as a way of seeking out best practice and new systems from others in the field.  Build in mechanisms to add-in tech to future contracts esp. if contracts are for more than 1year.

Outcome: Increased engagement of staff around a shared future purpose and opportunities to be leaders in the field. Encouragement for suppliers/contractors to deliver new things and not just bare minimum requirements of contracts.

Action Required: Develop synergy between the voids and major works teams to ensure more retrofit measures are installed during property void periods

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: March 2024

Barriers: Staff capacity. Impact on void turnaround times. Buy-in from senior management teams and members. Funding.

Action: Training existing staff in retrofit awareness. Building in increased capacity for works into council contracts for works.

Outcome: Minimises disruption to residents. Potential to then open the voids to local people to see example of whole house retrofit. Providing training opportunities for staff (how to install, coordinate trades etc...) opens opportunities to track how measures effect building too (prior to residents moving in).


Action Required: Develop a decarbonisation strategy for the council’s housing stock.

Start date: October 2023

Due Date: March 2024

Barriers: Having meaningful data on the stock. Staff capacity. Buy-in from senior management and members to support the strategy

Action: Utilising any data/programs being created used by climate change team to create the strategy. More cross party working between Housing, public health, climate change team etc. To show value and necessity of work.

Outcome: Better prepared and able to deliver excellent quality housing. Help reach national and local net zero targets. Increase the lifetime of our stock.

Action Required: Further develop existing retrofit team, building capacity to provide a retrofit focus

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: March 2024

Barriers: Retrofit is a new area and there is a national shortage of staff. Lack of free training opportunities. National staff shortages.

Action: Explore the option of recruiting additional staff vs. growing our own vs. building external capacity to meet demand.

Outcome: Building internal capacity protects the council from external fluctuations in the market – also shared values in team will result in highest quality retrofit and a standard for the region. Gives the council greater flexibility too.

Action Required: Work closely with the procurement team to ensure decarbonisation is at the heart of any new contract

Start date: April 2023

Due Date: March 2024

Barriers: Staff capacity. Lack of market understanding. Lack of staff understanding.

Action: Staff training about retrofit, climate change and public health. So, value and need for this is understood and foregrounded. Seek extra funding to cover costs of sustainability staff within departments.

Outcome: Will help facilitate delivery of retrofit / net zero etc. Across Northumberland.


Priority Area: Customer Buy-in

Action Required: Establish relationships with community hubs to mainstream retrofitting and decarbonisation of the housing stock

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: Staff capacity. Public frustration about who can access help/who can't. It is challenging to communicate why some social housing can have work, others cannot. Private landlords etc...

Action: Ringfence staff time to establish link/relationships. Seek funding for community energy advisors in the region.

Outcome: To increase community engagement and raise awareness. To have developed community infrastructure to support individuals on the journey to net zero and energy efficient homes.

Action Required: Develop a dedicated website for the council’s Housing Service / or develop existing area within the website to include retrofit information and signposting to other services and support

Start date: April 2023

Due Date: March 2024

Barriers: Cost. Staff time. Team priorities. Challenges around what is ‘suitable’ for a council to get involved in (e.g., recommendations etc...)

Action: Climate change team are in the process of building a dedicated website, which will include a space for domestic energy and retrofit. Seek support from devolved NE region to pool resource/support across the region.

Outcome: Availability of useful information to raise customer awareness and buy-in. Better quality information will hopefully reduce rouge traders praying on residents. Will help officers/councillors across council understand importance.

Action Required: Develop communications plan to raise awareness of retrofit solutions and the benefits to the environment

Start date: February 2023

Due Date: October 2023

Barriers: Staff capacity. Frustrations once people understand needs/requirements, it is difficult to justify lack of speed and finance.

Action: Link in with the Climate change team and existing comms plans around domestic retrofit in private property. Create specific guidance for; tenure, build architype etc.

Outcome: Climate change website – to host specifics around domestic properties. Dedicated space on Intranet for staff guidance. Guidance shared to councillors too. Leaflets created for residents.

Action Required: Consider creating an ECO home to demonstrate technologies and raise awareness within the community

Start date: June 2023

Due Date: Ongoing

Barriers: Funding. Staff capacity. Time. Spare homes. Ethics of leaving good quality home empty.

Action: Seek out suitable voids to have work completed, with a month of ‘show’ afterwards. As Northumberland so large, there would be a need for several demo homes across the county. Create video/comms from these properties, so that there is a way to show them to the maximum people (also will allow us to show more archetypes/tech to people)

Outcome: More understanding and buy in from all stakeholders (residents, staff, councillors etc.) Excellent practical training tool to see finished product and levels of comfort. Good examples will help dispel negative views around some types of technology.