ENGINEERING work has started on the new Darwen Academy - but the council is still in dispute with 10 families.

The foundations for the £48million Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA) are being laid in the Redearth area this week.

Then two tower cranes will be put in place and construction of the concrete structure housing the main building and sports hall will begin.

But despite the progress, the last 10 families to move out of houses cleared for the academy are still in dispute with Blackburn with Darwen Council over the value of their former homes.

When they moved out in April, they accepted 99 per cent of the value of their properties based on a survey carried out by the council.

The saga will not end until the final piece of the sale price, which could vary from one per cent of the survey value to a higher, negotiated figure, is agreed.

If valuations cannot be agreed, the battle will be taken to a tribunal.

TK Brian lived on Sunnybank Street for 10 years. The council’s survey valued his home at £60,000. But he said an independant surveyor put the price at £65,000.

The council has paid £55,000 so far and is in talks over the final amount.

Mr Brian, 49, who has moved to Tudor Close, Darwen, said: “I had to take the offer or be evicted.

“But the council promised us that we would negotiate because of the valuation differences.

“The council also said that they would pay for carpets and curtains in our new houses, but now say they can’t until the price of the houses is settled.

“A lot of taxpayers' money could have been saved and that academy could have been halfway built had they given us what we asked for years ago.”

The overall legal wrangle has cost the council £287,926 and has involved two public inquires and a High Court hearing.

Sayyed Osman, director of neighbourhoods, housing and customer services at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said in the vast majority of cases there was agreement.

He said: “If they don't the matter can be referred to an independent tribunal for a decision."

A spokesman for academy said works were on schedule. He said: “Bowmer & Kirkland Ltd, the main contractor, has now completed piling works; which is essentially the placement of concrete foundations 20 metres into the ground to support the weight of the new building.”