RESIDENTS on a derelict housing estate are to hold a candlelit vigil this week to raise awareness about poor lighting and infestations of rats around their homes.

The families still living in the condemned St Hilda's area of Middlesbrough claimed they had been left to their own devices after refusing to move to make way for developers.

Street lighting had been removed, rather than repaired, and little had been done to deal with the growing problem of rats and mice, they said.

Maureen Woodier, 66, who has lived with her 70-year-old husband, Henry, in Richmond Street for 30 years said their four-bedroomed, house had long been paid for.

They have refused Middlesbrough Council's offer of £26,000 for their house and said they would stay until the bitter end, unless given another house in exchange for their own.

"We pay £83 a month in council tax, but we are not getting the services we should be from the council," said Mrs Woodier.

"We contacted the council to complain about the lights being out and received a reply, on February 10, saying the problem would be dealt with. But instead of fixing the lights, they just took seven lampposts away.

"If you look out of my back window, you would think we were living on a farm, it is so dark.

"There are rats all over the place, and we have not had a black rubbish bag delivered for four months."

Mrs Woodier said they would be unable to buy another house with the cash offer, and felt they should not be forced to rent at their time of life, just because of development plans for the Middlehaven site.

Catherine Rozevskis, who is standing as an independent candidate in the Middlehaven by-election on Thursday, March 16, said she believed the residents were being forced out.

"I think the council should be over there, clearing the area up," said Ms Rozevskis.

"These people have just been left to God and providence. I feel they are deliberately ignoring them to get them to leave.

"I am in this area every week, and I have seen rats and how dark it is. The candlelit walk is to try to get something done."

The walk will start at 6pm on Wednesday, in Richmond Street, St Hilda's.

No one from the council was available for comment last night.