NEW homes were top of the agenda at one County Durham development yesterday as part of £32million investment.

County Durham Housing Group have been marking Rural Housing Week, which highlights the vital role that affordable housing plays in the long-term survival of all communities, at a new 40-home development in Crook.

The development consists of two and three-bedroom family homes along with two and three-bedroom bungalows, at West End Villas.

The first of the 40 new homes are rapidly approaching completion and all will be offered for affordable rent with tenants expected to pick up their keys between August and November.

Construction is being carried out by Galliford Try Partnerships North, which has contributed £1.2 million to the project.

County Durham Housing Group chief executive Bill Fullen, Galliford Try Partnerships North development director Andrew Rennie, and Durham County Council's portfolio holder for strategic housing and assets Councillor Kevin Shaw, approved of the site when they visited yesterday.

Mr Fullen said: "Crook is a busy market town at the heart of a large rural area. Like similar towns up and down the country demand for affordable homes has probably never been higher.

“For decades the number of affordable homes in rural communities has been eroded by Right to Buy sales and the challenges that housing associations like us faced in constructing new properties. We’re really pleased that we’re starting to turn the tide in County Durham with developments like this one in Crook.

“Far too many people view the housing crisis as an issue confined to big cities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Families living in rural areas have the same concerns about access to affordable housing and we’re determined to do what we can to meet their needs.”

Mr Rennie said: “The need for more affordable homes in rural areas is often overlooked but it is just as pressing as in urban communities. We are pleased to be playing our part in addressing the issue and improving the quality and choice of rural homes in County Durham.”

More than ten per cent of County Durham Housing Group’s new-build programme is being targeted at communities that are defined as rural.

Cllr Shaw added: "I'm absolutely delighted. It's about building the right homes in the right places."