PLANS to demolish and rebuild run-down North-East housing have been shelved, leaving scores of properties derelict and hundreds of residents in limbo.
Durham County Council cannot afford the second and third phases of a £56.5m housing masterplan for Chilton, Ferryhill Station and Dean Bank.
It leaves the future of the scheme, designed to rejuvenate the ailing coalfield communities, uncertain and residents demanding answers.
However, the council has declined to answer direct questions or discuss alternative plans until after the General Election.
Dave Farry, a county councillor for Ferryhill, said: “The situation is an absolute nightmare for people who have been waiting for this development.
“Yes, there have been improvements during phase one, but people’s lives have been on hold waiting for the rest of the project.
“If you own a house in one of the streets that was designated a clearance area, you’re stuck. You cannot sell and even if you could, it would be worth nothing.
“People have already been in limbo for years wondering whether to fix a leaky roof or get the boiler changed before the council buys them out and pulls down their house.
“Now it looks like they’ll be waiting longer still.”
The ten-year plan adopted by the now defunct Sedgefield Borough Council cabinet, in 2006, should have seen 400 homes demolished.
The scheme was cited as a priority when plans were being drawn up for the unitary Durham County Council.
Redevelopment schemes included hundreds of new homes, refurbishment of rundown properties and environmental improvements.
As work on phase one progressed the council expected property and land values to rise, but with the collapse in the housing market, a £25.5m funding gap is understood to have increased.
The problem emerged when Glyn Hall, head of housing at the county council, met a handful of people at a residents’ association meeting.
Addressing one resident he later wrote: “I attended to answer questions from residents regarding the regeneration works and to inform them of the constraints on the county council’s capital programme for housing improvements and renewals. Several of the residents suggested that in the absence of sufficient funding to implement phase two of the masterplan, that we should revisit and reconsider what could be done.
“I agreed this was a pragmatic approach and that we would consult with our legal representatives to ensure this was a course of action that could be pursued.”
The council said last night it had completed 91 demolitions in Chilton and 56 in Dean Bank with contractors due on site in Ferryhill Station, on May 10.
Mr Hall said no decisions had been made beyond the “absolute commitment” to deliver phase one.
He said: “Regeneration of the former Durham coalfield remains a strategic objective of the county council and we will continue consulting with residents as we seek funds for the subsequent stages.
“However, we have been rightly honest with the public on the challenging economic climate we continue to operate in.”