A LOCAL action group have begun tackling arson and vandalism which has been blighting a beauty spot and archaeological site.

The Eston Hills action group, set up by Redcar MP Anna Turley, has been working to reduce crime in the area to make the hills safer.

Residents had previously raised concerns about illegal off-roading, fires, abandoned vehicles, and environmental damage to the hills and wildlife.

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The group working together to tackle these issues includes Cleveland Police & Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger; local councillors; and representatives from Cleveland Fire Brigade, Cleveland Police, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, Friends of Eston Hills, and the Ice and Fire archaeology project.

The initiative has resulted in the seizure of over a dozen bikes, removal of eight burnt out vehicles and the construction of a new soil bund to prevent off-road vehicular access through woodland at Flatts Lane.

Ms Turley said: “The action group have made some really good progress since we brought them together back in April and have a clear plan of action over the coming months. This is a huge challenge and there is still lots to do but we have pushed the issue up the priority list for local agencies.

“The most important thing people can do to help is to report any information about off road bikes, vehicles and vandalism to the police so that we can make the hills a safe place for all of the community to enjoy again.”

Since the project began, arson incidents have dropped due to increased fire service patrols, extra gate security and the monitoring of fly-tipping.

Ian Hayton, Chief Fire Officer of Cleveland Fire Brigade said: "We work with the Police and Council on a daily basis to try and reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour incidents occurring on Eston Hills and I am pleased the number of fires has dropped from 18 in April to only four fires in June and July combined.

"We want to continue this welcome downturn and once again we ask parents to make sure they know what their children are doing in the school holidays and make sure they are staying out of trouble.”

The group are urging residents to anonymously report any information, especially photographic or video evidence, to the police so the perpetrators can be caught.

Barry Coppinger, Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Bringing agencies together to work with local communities to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour is an important part of my Police and Crime Plan.

“There has been some fantastic partnership work around Eston Hills and I’m pleased to see the police, council, fire service and local interest groups coming together to develop a common approach.”