THE demolition of a building which once represented the North- East’s industrial dominance finally started yesterday.

The ruined shell of Billingham House, in Billingham, near Stockton, once the headquarters of ICI’s agricultural division, has stood empty for nearly 15 years and has become the target of vandals and arsonists.

Stockton Borough Council has spent nearly 12 years and £100,000 on legal costs trying to get the building’s owners, Bizzy B, to demolish or secure the site. The council finally won an appeal court decision to allow it to knock the building down earlier this year.

The council is now looking to recoup its costs in legal, security and demolition fees from Bizzy B.

A small crowd gathered yesterday as two people sounded an airhorn to signal the start of demolition work.

Jo Cooper, of Wolviston Court, Billingham, was one of the two people who won a competition to signal the start of work on the site.

She said: “It is quite a momentous occasion for the people of Billingham, finally seeing an end to this eyesore of a building.

“I worked in the building for a few months as a typist and for ICI for three or four years altogether in the early 1960s. There was a commissionaire on the door and everything was so smart – when I started there I felt like I had got to the top. Billingham was built on ICI and in that respect it is sad to see it go.”

Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton council’s member for regeneration and transport, said: “I am proud the council stuck to its guns and fought to remove this.”

He said it was too early to make plans for the future of the site because it was still owned by Bizzy B.