SHADOW housing minister John Healey visited the region yesterday to talk about an MP's campaign for a private landlord register.

The Labour MP visited Wheatley Hill near Durham, Ferryhill, and Darlington.

He met local Durham county councillors Lucy Hovvels and Jude Grant in Wheatley Hill, who showed him work they have paid for to give the village a facelift by using decorative vinyl to cover up unoccupied properties.

The visiting party, including Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson and Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg, then went to Dean Bank area of Ferryhill, which has a high level of private landlords.

Mr Wilson has introduced a private members bill to Parliament to try to introduce a mandatory landlord register.

Mr Healey said: “The council local housing association and police are working together to try and crack deep-seated problems.

"But they are doing so with both hands tied behind their backs the by Government.

“They need strong legal powers so that private landlords and no landlords can let a property without it meeting certain basic standards – to give tenants the confidence to and the rights they do not have at the moment.

“The council also needs more power to set up the sort of register that Phil Wilson is arguing for, so that people know who owns the property know who to go to when there are problems also backstop powers where the landlord won't act to take the property on, make it good and make it a home for someone who needs it.”

Mr Healey then travelled to Darlington with Mr Hogg to meet up with MP Jenny Chapman and visit The Sidings, a new 73-home development just off Haughton Road, opposite Darlington College.

The area was once the site of a vandal-plagued engine shed – a listed building – which has been sympathetically transformed into homes.

Army veteran Martyn Lewis and his wife Joyce moved into a bungalow beside the old engine shed and gave the shadow minister a tour of their new home and garden yesterday.

Mr Healey said: "I've been up here to look at different parts of the housing crisis challenge in this part of the North-East.

"Some people are paying for privately rented homes which have faulty electric wiring or chronic damp. Most landlords take their responsibilities seriously... but we have too large a group where they need to be pushed to do the right thing."

He said he welcomed the regeneration of the railway area in Darlington which had been backed by Ms Chapman and the mix of homes that had been built by the Railway Housing Association at the Sidings.

The whole scheme consists of two and three-bedroom houses, two-bedroom bungalows and one-bedroom apartments.