AN eyesore building which was at the centre of a lengthy legal battle is finally being pulled down.
Work to consign the ruined shell of Billingham House to history is underway after contractors brought in a specialist machine to begin removing the former ICI headquarters chunk by chunk.
Preparations have been progressing for demolition to begin since the summer, when Stockton Council finally overcame a series of legal barriers which had thwarted several attempts to remove the derelict eyesore.
Until now work had focused on clearing the surrounding site, removing materials from the interior of the building and pumping out the basement level, which had become flooded over the years.
But yesterday, a super long-reach excavator mounted on tracks was brought in to reach up to the 120-ft-high roof to take pieces out of the structure.
Local residents Steve Whithouse and Jo Cooper were among the people who campaigned for the demoliton to take place, and were given the honour of sounding the horn that marked the start of work.
Working gradually over the coming months, contractors expect dismantling to continue until the end of the year.
Relieved residents, councillors and community representatives were on hand to see the demolition begin yesterday morning.
Stockton Council took the decision to demolish Billingham House after its owners, Bizzy B Management, had initially failed to make the site secure and then allowed it to degenerate into dereliction over several years, much to the dismay of local residents.
But Bizzy B contested the demolition and began a long-running legal battle over whether it should go ahead.
The fight ended up in the High Court in London, where the council finally won its case following a lengthy series of appeals by Bizzy B.
Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said: “Billingham House is finally on its way into the history books.
“Many residents have told me how relieved they will be to see it go after living for so long in its shadow.
“It is now more than 15 years since this was the proud Teesside headquarters to a leading company with an international reputation.
“However, I am proud that the council stuck to its guns and fought so hard and so long on behalf of local people to remove this blot on the landscape.
“It will still take some time to remove but, bit by bit over the coming months, it will gradually disappear.
“Ultimately, I look forward to the day when the site can find a new use to benefit the local community.”
Christopher Bieda, chair of Billingham Town Council, welcomed the start of demolition, which he said was great news for the residents and businesses in the area.
“Years ago, people here were proud of Billingham House but in recent years it has become an eyesore,” he said.
“This is the beginning of the end for a part of our history, as well as the start of a new future for the site.
“I would like to thank everyone who has helped achieve this, as well as the people of Billingham who have been so patient.”
Val Scollen, chair of the Northern Area Partnership, added: “After long, hard efforts by Stockton Council and partners this building is finally coming down, which is fantastic news.”