A proposed transformation of a County Durham community has been met with caution, as locals have warned the area has faced too many “false dawns”.  

Updated plans revealed by Durham County Council suggest homes could be demolished and residents could be relocated in Horden. 

New community facilities and better-quality housing have been proposed in the ‘numbered streets’ neighbourhood, as part of a masterplan to improve the area. 

The scheme, first announced in 2019 and led by the local authority, pledges to invest in the former mining community’s housing issues. A consultation with residents found the majority backed a proposal to purchase and demolish the existing properties on the numbered streets and replace them with new homes.

Read more: Homes could be demolished and rebuilt in Horden masterplan

Up to £6million has been pledged by the council to develop the first phase of the masterplan, which involves acquiring homes on Third Street. The council will then decide whether to demolish and rebuild or remodel existing properties. 

The Northern Echo: Grahame Morris, Labour MP for EasingtonGrahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington (Image: The Northern Echo)

The local MP says he welcomes the plans but the area has suffered without investment. Labour’s Grahame Morris, of Easington, has previously raised concerns over the amount of empty properties in the area, hitting out at “absentee private landlords, with no connection and little interest in the community”.

He also said it was a “catastrophic failure” that the Joint Administration in charge of Durham County Council  - consisting of Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Independent members - did not include Horden in the first round of bids for the Levelling Up Fund. 

“I must reserve judgement,” said Mr Morris. “There have been too many false dawns when it comes to investment and regeneration in Horden, and I will have more confidence when there is progress on the ground.

Derelict properties, anti-social behaviour, criminality and open drug dealing on the street have blighted the community for years, the MP has previously said. 

Horden Together, a local group, was created in 2021 to tackle neighbourhood nuisances and improve quality of life by working with residents to tackle the issues highlighted by Mr Morris, and continues to support residents. 

The Northern Echo: Pip Fallow recently published a book titled 'Dragged Up Proppa', which documents his life living in East Durham and the challenges the area faces todayPip Fallow recently published a book titled 'Dragged Up Proppa', which documents his life living in East Durham and the challenges the area faces today (Image: The Northern Echo)

Yet, author and local activist Pip Fallow believes more needs to be done than just redeveloping neighbourhoods after recently assessing the current state of nearby communities. 

“Horden is a tiny spot in eight miles of coastline of absolute deprivation,” he said. “All the villages share the same problems and the issue is that it’s the cheapest postcode in the country and landlords are exploiting that. There's no community and it’s making it much worse.

“The people around here were once proud to produce, to manufacture, and I can’t see a solution to this region’s woes, other than putting its heart back in by re-industrialisation.”

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Echoing the local MP’s claims that investment in the area is long overdue, he’s calling for action on the local unemployment crisis. He added: “Sticking a tiny plaster on a gigantic wound like Third Street is not going to solve much.” 

Despite the criticism and concerns, Mr Morris MP welcomes the council’s pledge to invest £6m in Horden. He added: “I welcome these new plans, and it is vital that the council proceed in an effective and efficient manner to secure improvements for local residents, who have seen too many false promises come and go.”  

The Joint Administration says the scheme will act as a catalyst for further regeneration and attract further investment. 

Cllr James Rowlandson, the council’s cabinet member for resources, investment and assets, said investing in Horden has always been a priority. A £20m bid was submitted in Round Two of the Levelling Up Fund but failed. 

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He added: “Whilst we were disappointed Horden didn’t receive the funding from the government, we will continue to look for other opportunities for the community.

“Mr Morris is well aware of the timescales for developing the round one bids, as that work was done in conjunction with the local MPs. So to now blame the current administration of the county council for not submitting a bid is misleading at best. 

“The submission deadline date was under a month after the new administration came into office. Therefore, it’s clear that the failure lies with the previous Labour administration for not having done the work to have a bid ready in time.”