COUNTY bosses spent more than £50,000 buying back an ‘eyesore’ derelict school previously sold for just £1, it has been revealed.

The former Easington Colliery Primary School has been empty since it was sold to developers in 1997.

After more than 20 years trying to find a new use for the site, Durham County Council spent £53,000 bringing it back into public ownership after it became a ‘target for vandals’.

The authority has submitted a planning application to clear the site and create a pocket park until a permanent use for the land is found.

If the application is approved by councillors, it is hoped that work can begin in the early autumn.

The Northern Echo:

But the move has prompted fears the final bill could be much higher.

Opposition county councillor John Shuttleworth said: “It’s a listed building, there could be all sorts of problems with it, like asbestos or contaminated land.

“We’ve spent this money to demolish it – for what?

“[The building] probably needs something doing to it, but the council sold it and the developer has sat on it and not done anything and I don’t know why the public should have to spend a lot of money to sort it.

“To buy it at a time when there’s no money and there’s going to be even less is ill thought out.”

The school was sold for £1 by the previous Durham County Council, which was abolished and replaced with the current unitary local authority of the same name in 2010.

The £53,000 bill to buy the school site, in Seaside Lane, does not include demolition costs.

The Northern Echo:

Susan Robinson, the council’s head of corporate property and land, called the building a ‘blight on the local community’.

“Ourselves and the former District of Easington Council worked closely with every owner of the building during the past 20 years to try and find a viable use for it but, unfortunately, this has not been possible.

“It had become clear that we needed to take action to resolve the situation for residents and the only way to do this was to bring the former school back into public ownership and pursue demolition.

“A consultation earlier this year found that 91 per cent of local residents who took part felt demolition was the best way forward if the land is to find an alternative use.

“We are confident that the cost of purchasing the building and clearing the site for redevelopment will be justified by the positive impact this will have on the lives of local residents.”