Residents want to ‘reclaim’ boarded-up homes

John Barnett close to his Horden home.

John Barnett close to his Horden home.

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FED-UP Horden residents are launching a bid to ‘reclaim’ their area by taking over the running of dozens of boarded-up properties.

Horden Colliery Residents’ Association (HCRA) is looking into setting up a group that will allow the community to take over the homes.

In Horden, 130 properties managed by Accent housing association are empty, and Easington MP Grahame Morris last week described the vacant homes as “an eyesore and a drain on the community”.

Accent announced earlier this week it plans to sell a number of empty homes in the area, with a government minister last week suggesting they could be sold for as little as £1.

The decision of Accent – who blame the bedroom tax for the lack of interest in buying the properties – led to a special meeting being set up by the HCRA, and they have enlisted the help of community housing expert Jo Gooding as they try to revive the area.

John Barnett, the spokesman of HCRA, said: “The meeting was very well-attended, and the upshot of it is we are attempting to put together a proposal with the help of Jo Gooding.

“The idea is that the residents themselves will take over the management and running of the properties.

“We want to create a working environment for people to come and assist us with the renovation of properties.

“As a community, we want to tackle the environmental aspects and make the streets more attractive, and then renovate those properties.

“We’re still at the start of things, and we need to firm up our ideas, but as a community, we’re trying to reclaim the area.”

Mr Barnett is sceptical that the properties will be sold for as little as £1, and funding is being sought to help the community’s plan take shape.

The association also disagrees that bedroom tax is the main reason for the state of the area, and instead blames a lack of investment from Accent.

Mr Barnett added: “We will need Accent to co-operate with us, but the indications so far are that they are willing to do that.

“This is a long-term project and we are looking at a number of sources for funding, while any donations – particularly practical donations, for example those with particular skills who would be able to help us – would be greatly appreciated.”

Earlier this week, Claire Stone, Accent’s director of communities and assets, said: “We have worked really hard to find the best possible solution for these homes and have had a dedicated project team in place with Durham County Council and the Homes and Communities Agency to explore all the options.

“We will continue to work closely with residents and local representatives to ensure that they are fully supported throughout this process.”

Anyone who is able to make a donation of any kind can call association chairman Pat Barnett on 07719 248096.