Time finally called on eyesore pub

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WORK will begin within weeks to pull down a derelict village pub.

The Willows premises in Widdrington Station is finally coming down on February 7 after years of campaigning by residents.

The former pub, which has been vacant for more than five years, was labelled an eyesore at the heart of the village and was once branded a drugs and alcohol den after substances and bottles were found in an inspection.

Recently fire chiefs had warned that it would be too dangerous for them to enter the premises if it was set alight.

Now Two Castles Housing Association has secured planning permission to develop 22 affordable homes on the site, and to kick-off the scheme, bulldozers will move into The Willows next month.

Two Castles Property Services Director Rob Brittain said: “Two Castles Housing Association is committed to providing high quality, affordable homes and there is a definite demand for this in Widdrington Station.

“We are extremely pleased to have received planning permission and plan to commence demolition of the old building on February 7 this year, with completion anticipated in December.”

The project, which will provide 17 homes for rent and five for shared ownership, has been supported with funding of £1.1million from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and £36,717 from Northumberland County Council.

It will include five two-bedroom houses, nine three-bedroom houses and eight bungalows, and will be among the first developments in Northumberland to reach Level Four of the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes, with eco-friendly features, solar panels, compost bins and cycle storage.

The properties will also be built to the Lifetime Homes Standard, with wider hallways for wheelchairs and space for stair lifts.

Dunelm Property Services will build the homes.

Dunelm Homes Managing Director Stephen Francis said: “We have, over many months, been working to create a plan for the site which satisfies both local needs in terms of housing and planning and wider strategic housing issues.

“We are delighted that Two Castles has been able to take advantage of the potential for development which Widdrington Station now presents.”

HCA Investment and Regeneration Manager Alan Davies said: “With Two Castles and Dunelm Property Services working in close partnership and support from the Homes and Communities Agency, the Widdrington Station scheme is a great example of different organisations coming together to make things happen in a difficult economic climate.”

The scheme has been designed in consultation with the adjoining Area Training and Activity Centre (ATAC).

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Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council Chairman Joe Sennett said: “The demolition of The Willows is excellent news. The whole village will be over the moon.

“Let’s get it down, get the houses up and be done with it.”

County councillor for the area David Towns also welcomed the news.

“It was the will of local people that the building should be demolished as soon as possible and I’m pleased to hear that the new owners are doing that so people won’t have to put up with that eyesore of a building any longer,” he said.

“It has been a blot on the community for years.”