FED-UP residents are demanding new lights are fitted in a fire-damaged underpass, describing the once-popular thoroughfare as “dark and intimidating.”

Last November, firefighters were called to Meadowfield Way underpass in Newton Aycliffe after youths set off a firework inside the tunnel.

As well as scorching the walls, the fire destroyed the underpass lights and, seven months later, residents are still waiting for the damage to be repaired.

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Philip Clark, chairman of Horndale Residents Association, said many elderly people, school children and mothers with pushchairs are now choosing to cross the busy road rather than venture through the underpass.

“It was worse over the winter with the long dark nights,” he said.

“We often get kids hanging out in the underpass, which can be very intimidating when you are on your own.

“It is even worse since the fire because the underpass is so dark and rundown.

“Myself and our county councillors have been urging Durham County Council to take action for months.

“Even if they can’t fix the lights straight away, the least they can do is clean it and brighten it up with a fresh coat of paint.

“We are right near a school and a nursing home. The underpass is an important facility and seven months is far too long to wait.”

Mr Clark said the issue of the underpass was frequently raised at Horndale Residents Association’s monthly meetings and has also been identified as a priority by Horndale Police and Community Together members.

John Reed, head of technical services at Durham County Council, said: “The lighting in the underpass was badly damaged by fire which was so severe that the cabling melted making temporary repairs impossible.

“Bespoke panels have also had to be manufactured and these are currently being produced by a local company.

“We hope to replace lighting in all of the underpasses in Newton Aycliffe and delivery of the new energy saving LED lights is imminent. Meadowfield underpass will be the first one to be refitted once materials arrive.

“A programme of cleaning and painting is also programmed and will begin in the next few weeks.”