THE third pilot scheme in the country to make houses at least 30 per cent cheaper so key workers can get on the first rung of the property ladder was launched yesterday by a Government minister in County Durham.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was in Newton Aycliffe to unveil the scheme where the first 12 houses with the price reduction were snapped up within hours of coming to market.

“By offering the chance to buy a home at a 30 per cent discount, we are giving local people, families and key workers like NHS staff and forces veterans, a route into home ownership where they already live.

“Although these are very unusual today, we expect there to be 1,500 of them in England by the end of the year, and we want to see 50,000 built so that by the end of this parliament there will be a stock of first time properties in all parts of the country,” said Mr Jenrick.

The new scheme is funded by the developer and is administered by the county council, which drew up a list of workers who were eligible for the discount. When the property comes back to the market, it will be independently valued and the same 30 per cent discount applied for the new first time buyers.

The first 12 houses are on the Elder Green development on the Middridge side of Aycliffe.

Paul Howell, the Sedgefield MP, said: “I like the flexibility this gives local authorities to set their own priorities, to decide whether they need nurses or teachers – lorry drivers at the moment are seen as key workers, so this will be for whatever workers the area needs at that moment in time.”

Only Bolsover in Derbyshire and Cannock in Staffordshire are ahead of Durham in starting the scheme.

“Ensuring that our residents have access to affordable housing is a key priority for us,” said Cllr James Rowlandson, the Durham cabinet member whose portfolio includes housing. “This pilot puts people and communities first, allowing residents to buy their dream home in their local area.”

Perhaps the most controversial housing proposal in the area at the moment is the scheme for a 4,500 home garden village on virgin farmland between Aycliffe and Darlington at Skerningham.

“We have a brownfield first approach,” said Mr Jenrick. “We want to see local councils maximising all the opportunities they can to build on brownfield sites, to regenerate town centres, before even thinking about building on greenfield sites, but it is for local councils to make sensible decisions as to where they want development and to be democratically accountable to their local population if they decide to create a well designed new settlement and garden villages.

“I don’t know the specifics of this project, but new settlements can, as long as they are well planned and well designed with the right infrastructure, be very successful.”

The Northern Echo: Housing Secretary RT Hon Robert Jenrick MP wvisited Newton Aycliffe to launch a First Homes early delivery project in the region Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Mr Jenrick yesterday laid a brick (above) in one of the 250 homes that Keepmoat are building at Elder Green. The residential sector accounts for 21 per cent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, and yet the new houses have gas boilers that will have to be replaced by cleaner technology by the mid 2030s.

Mr Jenrick, whose parents own the Katell fireplace business in Aycliffe, explained that the “world’s most stringent building regulations” will soon green up the nation’s new-builds.

“No new home will be built from 2025 unless it meets the highest standards of energy efficiency and is net zero ready, either with a ground source heat pump or with a boiler that will be hydrogen ready,” he said.

“We don’t want to see homes being built that need to be expensively retro-fitted in the future because that is a false economy, but we are giving industry a couple of years to build capacity, to train people to install this new equipment so that we are ready to go by 2025.”

The Northern Echo: Housing Secretary RT Hon Robert Jenrick MP wvisited Newton Aycliffe to launch a First Homes early delivery project in the region Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

At Elder Gardens, Mr Jenrick met Keepmoat regional managing director Ian Worgan, who told him how raw material and labour shortages were hammering his industry.

“The cost of these roofs has increased 25 per cent recently because of timber prices,” he said. “It is probably the most difficult time I have seen in 17 or 18 years in the construction industry because it is not one problem, it is many.”