ANECDOTAL evidence from members of the Polish community in part of the North-East appears to be reinforcing fears of racist incidents since the referendum on EU membership.

The population of Consett, in County Durham, once synonymous with steel, has seen a substantial increase in economic migrants since restrictions on the movement of labour Eastern European countries were removed in 2004.

However, Durham Constabulary insists it has seen no rise in reports of tradionally low levels of hate crime since the referendum result was announced.

Two years later firms, like International Cuisine, a food processing factory, born out of the collapse of heavy industry, were recruiting hard working people from Krakow with the lure of better wages and opportunities of a new life in Derwentside.

Families relocated and put their roots down in and around Consett, and now have built their lives in the area.

Women have given birth to their children here and they are part of the school communities.

But 37-year-old Urszula Dabek, who owns Polish Beers Warehouse, said: “A friend of mine went to school with her nine-year-old son and the children said they were not going to play with him anymore because he is different. He was crying. They hear it from their parents. Who else could create that?

“At work in the factories some friends say people who voted Leave have been saying: ‘bye, don’t forget your bag’.

“I know of three families who have decided to leave. Some of the things that have been said are not nice.

“One of my customers said to me her neighbour has stopped talking to her.

“She lives in Burnopfield and she had been fine with her and chatted to her, but after the vote the next day she pretended she did not know her. She was like: what is going on?

“My shop is open until 8pm and on Saturday I heard someone say: “What the f*** is a Polish shop doing here?’ It was never like this before.”

However, a spokesman for Durham Constabulary said it had not seen an increase in hate incidents since the outcome of the referendum was announced last Friday.

He said: "Traditionally the number of hate crimes of all types reported in County Durham and Darlington is consistently very low

"In Durham we have an effective reporting system and are in partnership with various agencies across County Durham & Darlington with the aim of increasing reporting and tackling hate crime.

"However, we would actively encourage anyone who feels they have been a victim of hate crime to report it to the police.

"We also encourage anyone who would prefer not to report this type of crime directly to us, to use  True Vision which is a third party reporting facility."

Ms Dabek moved the Consett six years ago from Kielce, but the economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote means she is no longer pursuing plans to open a restaurant in the town.

She said: “At least 15 jobs won’t be created and we won’t pay rent to the landlord or tax to the council, or pay for electricity.

“We wanted to invest but we are scared now. We have been stopped from doing that. We do not want to lose our money if something bad happens.

“I am worried about duty taxes going up at my shop. Ninety-nine per cent of my stock is imported from Poland.”

Malgorzata Lipinska, 37, has been in the area 11 years after moving from Szkotowo, and runs the Polski Supermarket, Europeans Foods, on Middle Street.

She said: “I have heard about friends’ children saying to them they will have go home to Poland now. I also had some guy come and say sorry about some of the English people. I know not everyone is the same.”

A Thai takeaway on Seymour Street has been forced to close its restaurant after vandals smashed a plate glass on the evening the UK voted to leave the European Union on Friday.

Oodles of Noodles is owned by Steve Watson, an ex-serviceman and former chairman of the Consett branch of the Royal British Legion, who runs the eatery with his Thai wife, Atchari.

He has asked police to log the incident as racially motivated and believes the racial tensions stirred up in the build up to the historic vote has given bigots a mandate to espouse xenophobic views.

Mr Watson, 54, who organised and help fund a trip to deliver aid to Syrian refugees last year, said a curry house and a kebab shop nearby has also been attacked by vandals recently.

He said: “It has shocked me and made my wife very upset. She is totally confused as to why this happen.

“People are taking the Brexit vote as a pseudo legitimisation of anti- diversity and anti-foreign views. I find it too much of a coincidence.

“We have never, ever experienced anything like this before.”

Anyone wishing to report a hate crime can call Durham Police on 101 or for details on True Vision visit