THE future of problem flats in South Tyneside hangs in the balance as senior councillors prepare to make a decision on their fate.
The council’s cabinet is to make a “key decision” next week on what lies ahead for 72 residents in Farding Square, Marsden.
That decision will be made “behind closed doors” because of the “serious consequences” of it being held in public.
It is not known whether demolition is one of the options being considered.
But some residents have spoken out to welcome any move to flatten their homes over claims of cracks, dampness and infestation throughout their properties.
Sheila Beckett, 54, who has lived at the complex for six years with her partner Robert Beckett, 44, sleeps on the sofa because of dampness in her bedroom.
There are cracks on walls throughout her flat and black mould in her kitchen units.
She said: “I would welcome demolition and I hope that’s one of the considerations. I don’t have one decent room. They should pull the flats down before they fall down.
“It would be a waste of time spending money on the flats, it would cost far too much.”
Another resident, Donna Minchell, 36, also has cracks throughout her property and has dealt with beetle infestations.
She is on medication for depression because of her “appalling living conditions” and has backed calls for the flats to be demolished.
Miss Minchell added: “There is a crack in the bathroom wall that goes straight through to the kitchen.
“I have plug air fresheners, but it still doesn’t get rid of the smell of the dampness everywhere. I’d be better off living in a shed.”
Coun Sylvia Spraggon, who represents Whitburn and Marsden for Labour, said various options for the future of Farding Square had been discussed over the past 12 months.
She said: “We have been looking at the situation very seriously and a lot of people are involved. We’ll just have to wait to see what the cabinet decides next week.”
Not all residents believe the complex is beyond hope.
Douglas Mather, 57, said he loves living in the area and wanted to see the council invest in bringing the properties up to standard.
He said: “This is a fantastic area to live in. There is no trouble, bus services are second-to-none and we’re close to the coast.
“Improvements are needed to the flats, yes, but I don’t want the bulldozers to move in.”
The recent troubled history of the flats includes a chemical scare in January 2011.
The alarm was raised after a substance was poured through a resident’s letterbox – the culprit accessing the building through insecure security doors.
In March this year, resident Shirley Smith was stunned when she heard a loud bang in her flat – and discovered a gaping 12ft crack the length of the back wall.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said the agenda item regarding Farding Square’s future would be discussed by members in private at next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, saying it was “exempt for reasons of commercial confidentiality”.