A £9 million affordable housing scheme, which included the conversion of an historic railway engine shed, has been officially opened in Darlington.
BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown was the guest of honour at the opening of The Sidings, a 73-home development built by Railway Housing Association just off Haughton Road in Darlington.
The scheme, which lies close to the historic 1825 Darlington to Stockton Railway Line, consists of two and three-bedroom houses, two-bedroom bungalows and one-bedroom apartments. All the homes were let for affordable rent to local people.
The centrepiece of The Sidings is a listed railway engine shed which was sympathetically converted into seven mews-type homes.
Despite torrential rain, Jeff Brown was joined for the opening by residents, staff and board members of Railway Housing Association, as well as other invited guests, including Homes England, who provided grant funding for the scheme, and Tolent, the Association’s contractor.
Welcoming everyone, the Chair of Railway Housing Association Board, Berni Whitaker, said: “This site is completely un-recognisable from when we first started work, when it was overgrown and had a derelict, graffiti-ridden engine shed.
“This has been transformed into a wonderful affordable housing scheme providing homes for local people, both young and old, with the engine shed at the heart of the development.”
Declaring The Sidings officially open, Jeff said: “It’s fitting that in Railway Housing Association’s centenary year, they have provided these amazing homes which are inextricably linked with its proud history.”
The total cost of the scheme was £9 million, which included grant funding of £1,789,590 from Homes England.
Karen Anderson, from Homes England, said: “The Sidings is a fantastic development, providing a mixture of homes that meet the housing requirements of the local community. It’s a real example of how Homes England supports its partners to help people access better homes in areas where they are most needed.
“Residents have told me how thrilled they are with their new homes and I hope they enjoy living here.”
After the opening, guests went across the road to Darlington College for a buffet lunch made by students on the hospitality and catering courses. This forms part of an ongoing partnership between Railway Housing Association and the College, with students on the construction and building courses getting hands-on experience during the building of the homes.