A SERIES of empty houses slowly becoming an eyesore in Hexham may soon be given a new lease of life.

Coun. Derek Kennedy, who represents Hexham West on Northumberland County Council, raised the issue of the former police houses in the town on Fairfield to Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness.

The commissioner was attending Tuesday’s meeting of Tynedale Local Area Council at Hexham House to discuss the force’s priorities in the area.

The houses were built almost 100 years ago, originally housing serving police officers and their families. They were later let out as social housing, but tenants were asked to leave over a three-year period beginning in 2015.

Ms McGuinness’ predecessor, Vera Baird, had planned to sell the houses to bring in funds for the police – and by 2017, most of the tenants had left and the remaining homes were boarded up, leaving them derelict ever since.

Coun. Kennedy, who is also the mayor of Hexham, said residents were becoming increasingly concerned, with most of the 15 houses currently unoccupied and becoming a target for anti-social behaviour.

Speaking at the meeting, he said: “The former police houses are sitting in a really affluent area next to the schools. What family wouldn’t want to live in those houses? They are fantastic.

“However, we’ve had them sitting empty for years now. They are in a really poor state. I just can’t understand why they’ve been left like that.

“I constantly get residents saying that there must be demand for them. Word has got out via the Hexham Matters Facebook page that they are empty and it is attracting people there who are being a nuisance.

“One resident had her garage broken into and said she doesn’t feel safe there any more and may have to move.”

Responding, Ms McGuinness explained that she had a plan for the houses and hoped to create high quality social housing that would then be available to rent for families.

She said: “I want the right solution. I want it to be family accommodation, and I want social housing.

“I don’t want to sell that land off to a developer who will make a huge profit on what is a really special site. Prior to me being elected they had been sold but I blocked it.

“There are plans to look at them and see how we can turn them into high quality social housing for families in Hexham. I believe we have had a breakthrough recently.

“I’m acutely aware of how important they are and for that reason we can’t get this wrong."