PEOPLE who persistently behave anti-socially, such as noisy groups of youths and abusive drinkers, in a town centre could be punished with fines of up to £1,000.

Darlington Borough Council’s leading members are set to consider launching a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in the town centre to help combat a rise in anti-social behaviour, which they say is affecting businesses and visitors.

In the last three months, police have received 142 complaints over matters such as youth and alcohol-related nuisance, in the town centre, and specifically near St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.

A report to the authority’s Cabinet states: “These are a particular concern as the area is highly visible with individuals collecting around the seating, drinking alcohol, being loud, disruptive and abusive towards other individuals using the town.

“The police and council have taken action to address the particular problem with some success, however it is area where anti-social behaviour continues.”

The PSPO, which following a public consultation, could be implemented for three years, would see police and council officers empowered to order people breaching the order to stop their behaviour, and hand out £100 fixed penalty notices if the behaviour continued. Persistent failures to comply with instructions could lead to arrest and £1,000 fine at court.

The types of anti-social behaviour which could be included in the order remain undecided, but the officers’ report highlights begging in the town centre has increased over the last year.

It states: “Whilst we recognise that some beggars often need long term help and support and referrals are made, they can be intimidating to the public and detrimental to businesses by putting shoppers off entering shops where they congregate.”

Councillor Chris McEwan, the authority’s economic regeneration boss, said the move was part of a drive to bolster the town’s reputation as a family-friendly market town.

He said while a handful of people were behind the anti-social behaviour, the authority would use “every tool in our armoury” to ensure Darlington remained safe and attractive to visitors. He added: “Darlington is a lot better than some neighbouring town centres in terms of anti-social behaviour.”