Greater Manchester neighbourhood named among the 100 coldest in England and Wales - call for insulation scheme

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, which is sharing the data on the country’s chilliest residential areas, wants the Government to commit to a national roll-out of improved insulation to lower energy bills.
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A Greater Manchester neighbourhood has been named among the 100 coldest in England and Wales in new data analysis by environmental organisation Friends of the Earth.

Salem in Oldham is officially the chilliest place in the city-region and came 88th in a list of areas where residents could be struggling to heat their homes this winter. It comes as Greater Manchester has experienced temperatures plunging below freezing with snow and ice at a time when energy bills are rocketing and the country as a whole is facing a cost of living crisis. Friends of the Earth has responded to the data by calling on the Government to bring in a national insulation programme for homes to bring the cost of staying warm down.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester?

The data analysis focuses on Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs), which break the country down into areas with similar popular sizes for purposes of statistical reporting, which it refers to as neighbourhoods. The coldest area in Greater Manchester, and the only one to make the list of the 100 chilliest in England and Wales, is Salem in Oldham, coming in 88th on the national list.

The average homes in the neighbourhood has an energy efficiency of 56.24, with anything below 68 classed as poor. Young people and ethnic minorities are also particularly affected by the energy problems there, as just over one in three Salem residents are under 18, with slightly more than a quarter being under 12, while just over three quarters of people living there (76.6% specifically) are people of colour.

A photo taken with a thermal imaging camera showing someone living in a cold house. Photo: Grey HuttonA photo taken with a thermal imaging camera showing someone living in a cold house. Photo: Grey Hutton
A photo taken with a thermal imaging camera showing someone living in a cold house. Photo: Grey Hutton

Just over two-thirds of Salem residents own their own homes, with just over a quarter privately renting and 6% in social housing. The area is also among the decile with the lowest income.

Outside the England and Wales top 100 the second-coldest neighbourhood in Greater Manchester is Gilnow and Victory in Bolton. The average home there has an energy efficiency of 57.2. Another Bolton neighbourhood, Astley Bridge and Waters Meeting, was the next coldest area in Greater Manchester for residents.

What does Friends of the Earth say?

Friends of the Earth says the coldest neighbourhoods are ones where poor energy efficiency makes heating houses more expensive and difficult and where people are also more likely to be living on low incomes to compound the problem.

People of colour, along with older residents and disabled people, are disproportionately likely to be facing problems, the organisation said.

It commissioned photojournalist Grey Hutton to take a series of striking images using a thermal imaging camera to vividly show the difficulties people in cold homes face staying warm.

Friends of the Earth says the UK has some of the worst insulated homes in Europe, making them expensive to heat as warmth escapes through walls, windows, roofs and doors.

A thermal image showing how difficult it is for people to keep warm in cold homes. Photo: Friends of the EarthA thermal image showing how difficult it is for people to keep warm in cold homes. Photo: Friends of the Earth
A thermal image showing how difficult it is for people to keep warm in cold homes. Photo: Friends of the Earth

It has launched the campaign United for Warm Homes, bringing together community groups and individuals to battle for meaures that will bring bills down and also help the ongoing fight against climate change. Friends of the Earth is urging the government to commit to a free, England-wide, street-by-street programme of insulation and energy efficiency measures to lower bills. This would help people save hundreds of pounds each year in energy costs, it says.

Catriona Currie, warm homes campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Harrowing stories like the ones captured in these striking photos are shamefully all too common right now. We have millions of people facing an incredibly bleak winter ahead, and with the festive season right around the corner.

“We’ve heard how people are making every adjustment they can to ease the enormous cost pressures they’re facing, and the cold is far from the only problem – damp issues are putting health and wellbeing at risk too.

“No one should have to live in a freezing home, just so they can afford to pay for food or meet other rising living costs. Rapidly rolling out a street-by-street scheme to insulate our heat-leaking homes, prioritising those in most need first, is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to bring down energy bills and cut harmful carbon emissions. The UK government must not delay this essential action to keep people warm and well.”