Plans have been drawn up to spend £1,699,464 on improvements to council houses in Teesdale villages over the next two years.

More than 300 homes are due to be upgraded under proposals expected to be approved by Teesdale District Council members tomorrow.

Peter Slack, the council's head of housing and the community, said much of the work was needed to meet the council's obligations under the Government's Decent Homes criteria.

The authority has already decided to hand the properties over to a housing association at some time in the future, but has accepted that repairs are needed in the meantime.

Mr Slack said: "The process of handing over the houses is just starting and it will be at least 18 months before the transfer is completed. It does not alter the fact that improvements are required now.

"I should think all the tenants will be delighted to hear that so much work is being proposed to bring the houses up to a good standard."

If the full programme is completed before the end of 2005, it will go a long way towards keeping the authority's 974 properties up to the correct standard.

Window replacements will cost £336,024 in a total of 117 houses in Gainford, Etherley, Evenwood and Cockfield.

Work on kitchens, bathrooms, heating and windows will cost £473,928 in 39 homes in Staindrop, Startforth, Mickleton, Etherley and Hamsterley. Improvements to bathrooms, windows and heating in 35 houses in Newholme Crescent, Evenwood, will cost £247,520.

A project to improve kitchens and bathrooms in 54 homes in Manor Grove, Cockfield, has been priced at £174,960, while roof work in the same street will cost £172,032.

Other work around the district, on insulation, bungalow upgrading, general improvements and heating repairs, will add £295,000 to the overall bill. No decision has been taken on which association will take over the homes.