CONTROVERSIAL work to replace the heating payment system in a sheltered housing complex has now begun.

Residents of Queen’s Court in Richmond are unhappy that their pre-payment meters are being replaced with a new system that will charge them a fixed rate of £3.30 per week irrespective of the amount of gas they use.

This is set to rise to £6 by 2020 and residents say it will see their bills soar.

Richmondshire Council says that the change is necessary to remedy an unsustainable situation whereby the meter systems currently fitted at Queen’s Court have not kept pace with inflation, meaning residents have been paying much less than they should do.

A protest was planned to greet the gas engineer due to replace the systems on Wednesday, however 72-year-old resident Keith Horne said it was not particularly well-attended as the residents have been “ground down” by the council.

He said: “It is very difficult.

“They (the residents) are resigned to the fact that unfortunately the council will win; it is very sad but that is the point that we are at.

“I am also getting a bit tired of it, we seem to be hitting a block on everything.”

The complex houses 35 residents in 32 flats and the majority have opposed the system change.

One resident pays £40 a year into her meter but under the new system, her annual bill will be £171.60.

Mr Horne said he knows of a similar housing complex in Colburn with the new system but their residents are only charged a weekly fee of £1.50.

He said:”They are pretty much the same in terms of their footprint, they are very, very similar so there seems to be an unfairness in why we are going to be charged so much more.”

The work to replace the system is expected to be complete early next week, but Mr Horne believes there may be a glimmer of hope as the matter has been referred to the housing ombudsman for further investigation.