RUBBLE from a historic North-East building destroyed by fire has become infested with rats.

Concerns have been raised after rodents were spotted in the remains of the Elite buildings at the bottom of Front Street in Stanley, County Durham.

The Edwardian structure, a former dance hall, collapsed following a major fire at Wong's Chop Suey House in November.

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Kathryn Cherry, who has two children at St Joseph’s Primary School, next door to the site, said pupils were not able to use the outdoor play areas due to the rat problem.

She said: “My children go to the school and they have lost a play yard since this happened.

“On Tuesday, we got a text message from school to say, ‘due to rodents nearby, the school car park and outside areas are closed’.

“Not only does the rubble look a mess, but it’s having a major impact on the school, the children’s education and now their health.”

North Durham MP Kevan Jones has written to Durham County Council urging them to take action.

He said: “It is a matter of urgency that we get these sites cleared.

“It is not good for people of Stanley to have rats in the area.”

Terry Collins, corporate director for neighbourhood services at Durham County Council, said a pest control officer is at the school everyday to monitor the situation.

He said: “We are aware of the problems and are working closely with the school to get it sorted as quickly as possible. Control measures are also in place at nearby properties.

“A notice was served on the owners of the demolished property last month to get the area cleared of rubble as soon as possible. If this is not done by the end of May further action will be considered.”

It is understood the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Environment has been informed so licenses can be put in place.

Durham County Councillor Carl Marshall, who represents the area, said: “The site will be treated as a priority and I have assurances that costs of treatment won’t be an issue given the extent of the problems we are experiencing in Stanley.”

The fire, which is thought to have started accidentally in November preceded an arson attack a month later, further up the street, The second blaze destroyed part of a row of shops in a Victorian building and has left a charred shell.