A NEW effort is being made to tackle anti-social behaviour among young people flocking to the centre of a market town on Friday nights.

Teesdale YMCA officials say there has been a marked increase in the number of teenagers from outside the area congregating in the centre of Barnard Castle in recent weeks.

In a bid to combat the problem, the YMCA has teamed up with Barnard Castle police to draw up a plan which aims to move young people away from the town centre and over to the Scar Top area, next to the castle.

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They will be offered a hot drink and snack plus advice, information and support.

Lianne Oliver, Teesdale YMCA centre manager, said the reasons for the sudden increase in numbers of young people heading to Barnard Castle on a Friday night were unclear.

“We want to do this work with the police to get to know these young people,” she said.

“Out of up to 50 young people, we only know about 20 of them. It's a learning exercise to find out where they are coming from and why.

“Once we know, we can do something about that.”

Ms Oliver added: “We have noticed an influx of young people congregating outside the Co-op and on the main stretch.

“It is not safe for them and it can be quite intimidating for other people in the town centre.”

She said it was appreciated moving a large group across to Scar Top was not an ideal solution.

“It won't suit everyone, but it is safer. It gets the young people away from the the main road and those using the town centre.”

The scheme will be launched on Valentine's Day, Friday, February 14, between 7pm and 9.30pm and will also include advice on sex and relationships. After that it will run every second Friday evening.

This latest initiative will run alongside fortnightly Friday night YMCA and police patrols in Barnard Castle which were introduced last September.

Ms Oliver said this had been a successful scheme which had helped refer pre-teens to the YMCA centre, in Galgate.

“We have now got a core group of up to 16 using the centre on a Friday night,” she said.