Major regeneration at a dilapidated 1960s sink estate officially got underway today - ending a frustrating ten-year wait for residents.

Diggers rolled in to the Dollis Valley Estate in Mays Lane more than 12 years after plans were originally drawn up to replace the 523 homes with new builds.

Phase one of the project, which involves the construction of 108 homes on the site of a former school and community centre, is due to be completed in April, though the regeneration will not be fully finished before 2021.

Building work this morning represented an end to the planning and financial hurdles that have hindered the project for more than a decade.

Speaking at the official launch this morning, Barnet Council leader Councillor Richard Cornelius, said: “It is a very special day - we’re actually there.

“It is important this estate is redeveloped – it is a blot on the landscape that needs improving. It has been a lot of work and this is very pleasing.”

Secure tenants and lease holders are guaranteed a home on the new estate, and the Conservative politician said they should feel reassured, despite the now-imminent destruction of their current properties.

Cllr Cornelius added: “Their future is safe, and replacing bad properties with new ones can never be bad.”

Unsecured tenants and those in temporary accomodation face a less certain future, but Barnet Council says it is working with housing association L&Q to re-home them.

Today’s launch was welcomed by residents and volunteers of the estate, who said the new builds would provide an optimistic future for the young people growing up there.

Debbie Dearman, manager at the Underhill Children’s Centre, where many parents and children of the estate visit, said: “It is absolutely brilliant. The plans will provide an inspiring new development and we’re looking forward to its completion.”

For Nigel Eade, chairman of the Dollis Valley Partnership Board which has spent 12 years dealing with the effect of the regeneration on residents, the launch represents a significant milestone.

He said: “We have had milestones in the past with the planning and development but this really means something to the residents here – they can see something is happening.

“There has been immense frustration in the past and many people didn’t believe it was going to happen.”

Speaking at this morning’s launch, Richard Cherry, deputy chairman of Countryside Properties, which has been responsible for putting together the plans for the regeneration, said: “These projects are the most exciting and rewarding because they make a difference to people’s lives. It has been frustrating and difficult at times but we’re underway, and that is tremendous.”