WORRIED residents say anti-social behaviour has increased in their former mining village because so-called absentee landlords are indiscriminate about who they allow in their homes.

Residents in Grange Villa, near Chester-le-Street, say their village peace has been shattered by some new tenants who bring their disruptive behaviour with them from troubled estates in nearby towns.

According to residents, private landlords are buying up cheap property - often for as little as £12,000 - and installing benefits claimants who have often been evicted for anti-social behaviour on other estates.

Chester-le-Street District councillor Ray McDermott, who represents the Grange Villa ward, said: "It's an absolute nightmare at the moment. Some of these people - undesirables - are bringing their anti-social behaviour with them. Since they arrived we've had noise throughout the night, general disorder and drug taking.

"I know of places that have gone up for sale at auction and have been snapped up for next to nothing by private landlords. They tidy them up, then rent them out to whoever will pay them - they don't care who they get in as long as they get the money.

"As things stand the village is going to experience a downward spiral. There are a lot of people who do a great deal of work to improve the environment here, and their work is being undermined by a minority of tenants." Barry Wea-therburn, a member of Grange Villa Action Group, said: "I understand that these people need places to live, but my biggest worry is that they are placed in rented accommodation without the support to help them get back on the rails.

"They are just left here and we have to pick up the pieces."

Leader of Chester-le-Street District Council Malcolm Pratt said they were powerless to vet tenants.

He added: "There have been improvements in recent years due to the work of Grange Villa Action Group which is supported by us.

"Unfortunately we cannot control who people sell homes to or who they put in as tenants."