THE demolition of a building which once represented Teesside’s industrial dominance finally started today.

The ruined shell of Billingham House, in Billingham, once the headquarters of ICI’s agricultural division, has stood empty for almost 15 years and in recent years has become the target of vandals and arsonists.

Stockton Borough Council has spent almost 12 years and £100,000 on legal costs trying to get the building’s owners, BIzzy B, to demolish or secure the site and finally won an appeal court decision to allow the council to knock it down earlier this year.

The council is now looking to recoup its costs in legal, security and demolition fees from Bizzy B.

A small crowd of local residents and councillors gathered outside cheered yesterday as two locals sounded an airhorn to signal the start of work to demolish the derelict eyesore.

Jo Cooper, of Wolviston Court, Billingham, was one of the two people who won a competition to be able to start work on the site.

She said:“It is quite a momentous occasion for the people of Billingham, finally seeing an end to this eyesore of a building.

“I worked in the building for a few months as a typist and for ICI for three or four years altogether in the early 1960s.There was a commissionaire on the door and everything was so smart - when I started there I felt like I had got to the top.

“Billingham was built on ICI and in that respect it is sad to see it go as it is one of the last links to ICI Billingham.”

Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said: “I am proud that the council stuck to its guns and fought so long and hard on behalf of local people to remove this blot from the landscape.”

He said it was too early to make plans for the future of the site as it was still owned by Bizzy B.