PROPOSALS to redevelop an eyesore former school on the outskirts of a County Durham village are expected to be unveiled early in the new year.

Derelict St Peter's, at Gainford, near Barnard Castle, has stood empty for the past 14 years, with little prospect of improvement because the site has always been designated for business use in local development plans.

However, as part of work to draw up the County Durham Plan, new ideas for the site are being considered.

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Earlier this year, Kebbell Homes, which owns part of the St Peter's site, held a series of workshops in Gainford to assess what would be acceptable to residents.

Rowland Holmes-Smith, architect for Kebbell Homes, said a report outlining the workshop findings is expected to be made public before Christmas, with a follow-up exhibition in early 2013.

He said: “We were delighted with the response to the workshops and are grateful to everyone that took the time to come along.

“We were encouraged by the high level of interest from local people and appreciated the chance to gain a better understanding of their aspirations for the site.

“Since this time we have been working on a proposal that best suits the needs of the site and represents a shared vision of the future.”

He added: “We remain committed to working alongside the residents of Gainford, local businesses and community groups and have initiated discussions with the planning authority, Durham County Council.

“We hope to be able to upload a report from the workshops before Christmas and aim to hold an exhibition early next year.”

Linda Britton, chairwoman of Gainford and Langton Parish Council, said she was pleased Kebbell had consulted thoroughly with villagers.

“From the feedback we have received, we believe that many people in the village would welcome the redevelopment of St Peter's if it was handled sensitively.

“The site has become an eyesore and heath and safety issue in recent years and is the most suitable place in the village for development.”

The parish council is producing its own neighbourhood plan to help shape the future of Gainford for the next five to ten years.

Coun Britton said: “The future of St Peter's will figure prominently in that plan.”

Once prepared, the Kebbell Homes report will be uploaded to the website