Homes sell for £5K in UK’s ‘cheapest town’ where locals ‘fear who’ll move in next’ | UK | News

Three doors down from Janette Smith’s home in Shildon, County Durham a neighbour’s property is listed for sale for just £5,000. From the outside, there isn’t much of a clue as to why the price is so low. 

It’s located in the middle of a row of terraced houses that appear to be occupied by residents who look after their homes and a peek through the window reveals a relatively clean, well-kept property. 

But Janette is fearful about who might end up moving in, she knows from bitter experience the bargain basement prices can attract buyers who don’t have the best intentions. 

“We don’t know who’s coming next door,” she told the Express. “[Lots of them buy without] even coming up to see the house, they’ve just seen the price of them.” 

Jeanette explained that rather than buying properties to live in the homes keep being snapped up by investors who rent them out, often with little care to how the tenants behave or attention to the condition they keep the property.

It takes a lot to beat the affordability of a home in Shildon. Just a few weeks back listings website Zoopla proclaimed it was the cheapest place to buy a home in the country. 

This was not the first time the County Durham town had topped such a list, for years the house prices have made headlines. Jeanette is all too aware of the constant references in the media, but bristles when asked about them.

“Shildon is like the cheapest place in the country to live [but] we’re not living in a hovel,” she continued. “They reckon [it’s because] there’s not enough new houses or schools are being taken away, a secondary school just closed. I don’t know, they are building newer houses and we’re paying high council tax.” 

Jeanette has spent her whole life in Shildon, while her 90-year-old mother has been here even longer.

She can remember a time when the town was a key railway link in the transportation of coal and the region’s mines were still in operation. There was a strong sense of community back then and people took pride in their homes.

“[When I was growing up here it was] very respectable people, office workers, school teachers. You played out at the back and you behaved yourself,” Jeanette explained. 

“You respected your elders,  they were nice people. Everyone respected the properties, they were very clean, people loved their homes.” 

The contrast to today could not be more stark. Jeanette has gone from knowing many of her neighbours by name to scarcely recognising large swathes of the community.

There has been an influx of outsiders with no connection to the place, many of whom seem to have serious drug problems or be involved in crime.

“We have had bother in the street behind, people arguing late at night and causing [problems]. We weren’t used to that,” she added.

Worse than the anti-social behaviour is how the drug trade has taken over parts of Shildon. “I definitely think this is a drug problem in the town, I really do,” added Jeanette. 

“And that’s sad, to be addicted to things like that and they don’t get enough help. But people who have respected their own homes are having to live beside it.”

Ironically for a town made famous for its transport connections, Jeanette explained the closure of supermarkets had left residents cut off from places to buy essentials. 

She said: “I’ve noticed when I walk along into town we haven’t got any shops or a supermarket, there’s only a B&M. I’ve got a car so it doesn’t bother me, but a lot of people don’t. B&M is fine but for making the dinner [it’s not the best], there’s no fresh fruit and vegetables in it.” 

Identifying the period in which the town entered a decline is difficult. As with many places in County Durham the closure of big industries feels like the moment things changed. In Shilton the closure of the major employer, the town’s wagon works – which built new train stock, occurred three decades ago.

“I know it was a long time ago but people had jobs then,” Jeanette added. “You know, your father worked there, so so did your son and you were guaranteed a job more or less. 

“When that closed the doors all seemed to go you know. We had a lot of working men’s clubs that were run well, but they’ve gone too.”

Waving us goodbye Jeanette warns us there are other parts of the town far worse than this. How much the houses would sell for there is anyone’s guess.

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