THE demolition of empty council houses as part of the regeneration of a former pit village has begun.

Chester-le-Street Council is knocking down scores of homes in Whitehill Crescent, Pelton Fell, to make way for a scheme to breathe new life into the community.

The regeneration plans include building 260 new homes for sale, affordable rent and shared ownership and a community resource centre. It also promises employment and training initiatives and measures to encourage community businesses.

The redevelopment is being carried out with Bellway Homes, the Nomad Housing Group and the Durham Aged Mineworkers Homes Association.

The council says it has consulted widely with villagers about the plans.

Steve Barr, of the Pelton Fell Community Group, which has been involved in drawing up the scheme, said: "The demolition of these empty properties marks the start of the changes which will take place over the coming years. There is still a long, long way to go but at last we are on our way."