HUNTINGDONSHIRE is leading the country with its environmental plans. The district council is the only one in the country to have bought two homes to show residents how to save money and the planet. It now has the keys to two homes, a detached house in St

HUNTINGDONSHIRE is leading the country with its environmental plans.

The district council is the only one in the country to have bought two homes to show residents how to save money and the planet.

It now has the keys to two homes, a detached house in St Ives and a semi in St Neots, that are typical of properties in the district.

HDC's £500,000 plans for a "sustainable homes retrofit" using expertise from the Building Research Establishment were revealed exclusively in The Hunts Post last November.

The two homes will be fitted out with practical, cost-effective, carbon-saving technologies to demonstrate how to reduce CO2 emissions, make straightforward insulation improvements, improve fuel-efficiency, save money on heating bills and increase the value of residents' homes.

The possibilities of incorporating renewable technology, such as solar power, ground and/or air source heat pumps and rainwater recycling, will also be looked into, the council said.

Work is due to start late summer and be complete by 2010. The first stage of the project will be to test them on their current efficiencies before the improvements are installed, so that comparisons can be made after the work is complete.

Residents, landlords, schools and businesses will then be invited to see how they may be able to introduce some of the measures into their own properties.

Project manager Graham Shipley said: "Twenty per cent of carbon emissions come from private homes. We hope this project will help show people how they can become 'greener' without necessarily a lot of effort."

At the end of the project the homes will be sold.

"We want to show people what the options are for them to save energy and, therefore, money. We can show them how much they would need to spend on each idea and offer costed options of how quickly they would get their money back," head of environment Paul José told The Hunts Post. "And it's also a way of showing that you don't have to be on benefits to get assistance with energy efficiency."

The council is targeting the private sector because, whereas nationally 75 per cent of homes are privately owned, that figure is nearer 90 per cent here. As many as 41 per cent of Hunts houses are detached and nearly one-third are semis.

"Refurbishment has been the Cinderella of the housing sector," Mr José said. "We aim to change that.