The first new social housing in the remote village of Rookhope for over 50 years has been completed, as part of a £30m project bringing affordable homes to County Durham.
A pair of two-bed bungalows in the heart of Rookhope have been officially handed over to County Durham Housing Group. The new homes are the first new social housing of any kind in the upper-Weardale community, which has a population of fewer than 300 people, since the post-war era.
The bungalows, on Boltsburn Crescent, are also the first of 300 new purpose-built affordable homes being constructed on 17 sites between now and 2020 by County Durham Housing Group.
County Durham Housing Group Chief Executive, Bill Fullen, said: “We hear lots of talk about the housing crisis in big cities, but affordable housing is just as much of an issue in a small rural village like Rookhope.
“These bungalows might seem like a drop in the ocean to some. But to the families who will be able to live in this village, they will mean everything.
“I can’t imagine the circumstances where a private investor would be able to deliver a project like this, which the community wanted and knew that there was demand for. But, this is exactly the type of project where County Durham Housing Group can come into its own.”
The bungalows feature high levels of insulation, the latest heating systems powered by solar panels, and double glazing. They are expected to bring big savings to tenants when compared with older homes in the village. Demand for modern bungalows in Rookhope is high as most properties date back to the area’s lead and ironstone mining heyday, well over 100 years ago.
County Durham Housing Group is one of the region’s largest providers of affordable housing. Alongside the new properties in Rookhope, the group’s £30m new-build programme is creating new homes in communities like Pity Me, Bowburn, Crook and Seaham. As well as traditional affordable rent, construction is delivering ‘Rent to Buy’ homes, which will help hard-working families take their first step on to the property ladder.
The programme is also expected to create around 100 new jobs and apprenticeships. Construction at Rookhope was undertaken by Bishop Auckland based contractor T. Manners & Sons, further supporting the Weardale economy.
Simon Manners, Joint MD at T Manners & Sons Ltd and the fifth generation of his family to run the 157 year-old business commented: “It has been a real pleasure to work with County Durham Housing Group and deliver affordable homes in Rookhope. Our craftspeople are all locals to the county and so it feels special to be involved in this much needed project. We are pleased to be continuing our relationship with the group, building more bungalows at West Auckland and hope to do more in the future.”
Rookhope, which sits high in Weardale above Stanhope, was a busy centre for the buoyant lead and ironstone mining industries until the early 20th century. Once known as Boltsburn, the village expanded greatly to serve the industry; criss-crossed by railways and dominated by chimneys. Nowadays the peaceful village is perhaps best known for its position at the foot of the fearsome Bolts Law incline on the popular Coast to Coast cycle route from Cumbria to the north east.