MORE than 40 pensioners, who were evacuated after devastating floods in the summer, are looking forward to returning home for Christmas.

The elderly people from Church View Residential Home, South Church, near Bishop Auckland, were moved to accommodation in Newcastle and Hexham after the River Gaunless burst its banks in June and sent a torrent of filthy water into their home.

The privately-owned home, in Main Street, had to be completely refurbished, at a cost of thousands of pounds, when it emerged that effluent from the drains had left the building contaminated.

Almost six months later, the residents can look forward to seeing their freshly decorated home with its new carpets, furniture, bathrooms and fitted kitchen.

Jacky Lowes, manager of the home, said: "We have been open for three years, and most of the residents have been there since then. They coped well, but obviously it has made a difference, with relatives having to travel and perhaps not being able to visit as freely.

"The home has been closed since June, but it looks lovely now after its major refurbishment. It will be opening on Monday, with an open house on Friday, for anyone who wants to come along."

The residents were moved upstairs when the flooding was at its worst before being evacuated by emergency services.

Staff relocated 42 pensioners, including a 92-year-old woman.

"Residents' belongings were either sent with them or put into storage. Then everything else was just put into skips and taken away, and the building was stripped and partially replastered," said Ms Lowes.

"The staff also had to travel to Newcastle every day from around here to look after them. We initially thought the home might be open sooner, but there has been a delay because there has been so much work to be done."

She said a fear of further flooding had made residents nervous, but they were reassured by the beck being reinforced and work to improve the drainage system.

l The residential home's open house on Friday will run from 10am to 6pm