TWO North-East communities are among the first ten areas in the country to benefit from a £1m Government scheme to tackle binge and underage drinking.

The two projects – based around Howden-le-Wear, in County Durham, and in Newcastle’s West End – will both receive £90,000 over two years after successfully bidding for funds.

The grassroots initiatives, backed by local authorities, police and retailers, will try to reduce the impact of problem drinking.

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It is hoped other communities around the country will be inspired to follow their lead.

The winning projects will aim to achieve the following objectives:

• A reduction in anti-social behaviour related to alcohol;
• Fewer accident and emergency admissions or fewer ambulance call-outs as a result of drinking;
• Alcohol consumption by young people reducing to safe levels;
• A reduction in purchasing of alcohol made on behalf of under-18s.

Baroness Newlove, the Government’s champion for active safer communities, who will work closely with each of the ten areas, said: “In two years, these areas will be transformed. I intend to support them all the way – and ensure that others follow their trail-blazing progress.”

The County Durham project focuses on drinking in parks, alcohol-related issues on housing estates and the large groups of young people who gather at off-licences.

It aims to tackle alcohol related harm in rural communities and avoid displacing alcohol- related anti-social behaviour from one village or estate to another.

A new park in Howden-le- Wear is said to be attracting young binge drinkers – some from outside the area – which has led to widespread concern.

The aim is to keep the park safe and attractive for the local community.

There are also plans to set up a community interest company to work with young people on the Watergate housing estate in nearby Crook, which has suffered from anti-social behaviour.

The aim is to make young people “proud and active citizens”, who are able to use alcohol responsibly.

The bid is backed by the local police, youth groups, community associations and retailers.

The other successful North- East bid is based in the inner Newcastle suburbs of Elswick, Benwell and Scotswood, where a third of local people consider drunk or rowdy behaviour is a problem.

The scheme will aim to raise alcohol awareness and offer improved education for young people, parents and residents on the harm caused by irresponsible drinking.