COMMUNITY leaders hailed the transformation of a once run-down Darlington estate, as they marked the end of a golden era.

The Firthmoor Community Partnership Board held its final meeting before being formally broken up to make way for a new organisation.

From next month, the group will become the Eastbourne Community Partnership Board and cover a wider area in the town.

Members met at Maidendale House Community Centre to hear chairman Bill Cook pay tribute to their work in recent years.

In 1998, local volunteers, determined to revitalise an estate blighted by crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, began applying for Government funding.

After eventually securing millions of pounds of Single Regeneration Budget cash, they have helped to turn round Firthmoor's fortunes.

The estate now boasts a well-used, £1.3m community centre, new housing developments, a £2m primary school, and has numerous on-going local projects.

Mr Cook said: "I look back six-and-a-half years ago to this estate and I remember, night after night, fire engines coming onto the estate.

"There was empty housing everywhere you looked - people just wanted to be away. But now look around the estate today. Dreams can come true."