A COUPLE were left shocked after returning home from the supermarket to find a tree embedded in their house.

The tree crashed down onto the roof of the house in Hackworth Close, Newton Aycliffe, as high winds from Storm Ali caused havoc across the region yesterday.

The damaged house is home to Leigh Mitchell, who last night spoke of the devastation that confronted her.

The windows in her bedroom had been smashed and the dining room doors and windows were blocked by fallen branches after the tree crashed into the property.

The Northern Echo:

STORM: Leigh Mitchell pictured with her dog Oscar after a  Tree falls onto her house on Hackworth Close, Newton Aycliffe Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Mrs Mitchell said: "Our neighbour rang and told us, but I thought it wouldn't be the whole tree – I thought it would just be a branch.

"When we got home and saw it we were shocked. We couldn’t believe it.”

Although Mrs Mitchell and her husband were out at the time her dog, Oscar, was in the house. She said the ten-year-old Westie had been terrified by the incident.

Mrs Mitchell said she believed the couple would have to find somewhere else to stay for the night.

And last night it emerged that concerns over the condition of the tree had first been reported to the local authority 15 years ago.

The tree fell from the garden opposite in Anne Swyft Road, home to former tree surgeon, Alexander Scott, who claims he alerted the former Sedgefield Borough Council to its condition several years ago.

He said: “The tree towers over the house so if it had fallen this way it would have caused massive damage to my property as well.

"I told the council 15 years ago it needed cutting down and they said they would send someone out to look at it. They came out but after, I heard nothing at all. Nothing has been done since."

Mr Scott said in the last two years he had also told the homes and communities organisation Livin, which now manages the house, the tree was a danger.

He said: “I’ve been warning Livin organisation to take it down for the last two years. I’ve been pushing the issue because I knew this would happen. It’s taken down all the fencing and everything.

Livin, who manages the house claims they responded to reports of the fallen tree immediately.

Rachael Swales, head of housing at Livin, said the organisation had responded to reports of the fallen tree immediately, adding: “Our priority is to ensure the safety of the family and we have carried out some immediate repairs to ensure the property is safe.

“The tree was inspected by an independent qualified tree surgeon in 2015, no works were recommended and the tree was deemed safe."

Storm Ali caused damage elsewhere in the region.

An Upper Teesdale road was blocked after a tree was uprooted on the B6282, on the approach to Eggleston village,.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the tree was blocking both carriageways.