THE CHEAPEST house in Shildon – Britain’s budget property capital for the third year in a row – has just been sold at auction with a guide price of £35,000.
For the same money in New Malden, South London, that would currently buy a lock-up garage with faded and chipped paint on its roller door.
It seems like an incredible bargain – but neighbor Sandra Comrie, 58, rolls her eyes and sighs: “Whoever’s bought it has over-paid.”
The one-bedroom terraced house with off-street parking, just behind the high street in the County Durham town, needs a bit of work.
But as far as care home worker Sandra is concerned, no amount of TLC could make it a decent investment.
“The last bloke who lived there was driven out by the local kids smashing his windows night after night,” she says.
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“The crime and anti-social behavior around here is crazy.”
To emphasize her point she gestures towards a boarded up house at the end of the terrace.
Every door and window is covered in chipboard behind the smashed panes of glass and paint daubs.
“See that place?” she says. “Someone actually lives in there. He never comes out, he daren’t or they’d have him. He just sits all day and night behind the boarded up doors and windows. It’s frightening.
“I came downstairs the other day to find a block in my kitchen, he’d just walked through the back door.
“He told me he was only letting me know my door was open but I knew he was trying to find stuff to pinch and I yelled at him to get out.
“The best thing you can do in this town is keep yourself to yourself and hope to stay safe, but sometimes they’ll come for you anyway.
“True, it’s cheap, but there’s a reason for that – no one wants to live here. I pay £375 a month for a two-bedroom terrace, you wouldn’t get that in most places.”
Sandra was born in Glasgow and raised in Corby, Northants, but three years ago she became one of a growing number of people migrating to Shildon from the South.
It’s not for the town’s railway museum or to watch Shildon AFC; The influx of Southerners comes down to simple economics.
Barmaid Marie Peacock, 50, explains: “People who can no longer afford to live in the South are coming here because it’s so cheap.
“Private landlords buy up all the houses and rent them out at low rents. But that means local people can’t afford to get on the property ladder and all these people arriving from across the country means the sense of community has gone.
“I’ve lived here since I was eight and everybody knew each other. That’s not the case any more.
“We’ve been forgotten and left behind. The Government and local authority have just left it to die away.
“We no longer have a school here. That closed down because the building was so neglected through being underfunded. The Shildon kids have to go to school in neighboring towns now. We don’t even have a proper supermarket.”
Her pal, mum-of-two Michelle Race, 42, said: “There is nothing for the young people to do and that’s what leads to all the antisocial behavior and trouble.
“The leisure center is still open but it hardly has any facilities, the place feels dead.”
Ella Pratt, 19, ponders the question: “What’s it like living in Shildon?”
As she does a police car screeches past in pursuit of another vehicle, its blue lights flashing.