Vacant buildings that have blighted a County Durham village for years can now be demolished and replaced with high quality homes thanks to a £6 million investment.

Durham County Council has allocated £4.5 million from its Towns and Villages Investment Plan for a major regeneration scheme in Horden. This is the largest investment from the local authority’s Towns and Villages programme to date and boosts the £1.5 million already set aside from the capital programme.

The funding will allow the council to progress a masterplan created for the village in 2019 to address issues with housing, the environment and access to amenities. There was a particular focus on the Numbered Streets, which have been impacted by issues associated with long-term empty homes and absentee landlords.

During public consultation in 2019, the plan was met with widespread support, especially proposals to clear a significant number of vacant and neglected properties and replace them with new high-quality homes. Suggested improvements to the local environment and investment in education provision were also well received.

The £6m will be used to acquire and subsequently demolish buildings and houses to allow rebuilding to begin in line with the Horden Masterplan and its objectives. The council is talking to prospective developers about the opportunities that exist in Horden and how to build on investments already delivered. More information will be shared with residents in the coming months to ensure that their expectations are being met and to provide a further chance for them to share their views.

Alongside this, the council will continue to liaise with Homes England and the Government to secure extra funding for the wider masterplan. Attracting additional funding is a key part of the Towns and Villages programme and the council has already enjoyed success in this area, with its own financial commitments acting as a catalyst for further investment.

This includes the recent £10.5 million investment in the new Horden Railway Station, which brought about £4.4 million in funding from the Department of Transport and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Cllr Kevin Shaw, Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets at Durham County Council, said: “We know there is a really strong sense of community in Horden and that there are many residents who care deeply about the village and its future.

“Unfortunately, a longstanding problem with absent landlords is having a huge impact on how residents feel about the area and the proposed selective licensing scheme, coupled with investment, are desperately needed to tackle this issue.

“This £6 million will enable us to make a real difference to the quality of life of Horden residents and help create an environment they can be proud of.”

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The work we are undertaking in Horden – from the creation of a new railway station, to the wider masterplan – is what our Towns and Villages programme is all about. It is about looking at the needs of each community and then working with residents, local partners and other organisations within the public and private sector to bring about positive change.”

As well as forging ahead with long-term measures, the council and its partners have also been working hard to tackle issues as they arise in the village. Since October 2020, improvements have been made to 15 empty properties, the council’s neighbourhood wardens have been patrolling the area for fly-tipping and dog fouling, and information packs have been provided to residents with tips on how to be more active.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service has also been conducting regular patrols and the council’s community action team is securing the lease for part of Horden Social Welfare Centre to provide a base in the village.

Furthermore, as part of the Safer Streets initiative, the council is taking steps to prevent unauthorised access to empty properties within the Horden area. For a limited time, the local authority will be contacting landlords to offer works free of charge, including the installation of robust, decorative boards for all ground floor windows and doors.

Reactive work will also continue to address properties that are open to unauthorised access or are a danger to public health, with notices to be served to owners who do not respond to have them secured.