CHILDREN under the age of 16 have been banned from a town centre fast food restaurant following ongoing problems with antisocial behaviour.

McDonald’s is insisting youngsters can only order takeaway food from the Stanley branch, which opened last year.

If they want to sit inside they must be accompanied by an adult.

It follows a spate of problems associated with unruly youths in the area.

A McDonald’s spokesman said the safety of their customers and employees is their highest priority.

He added: “Due to a series of incidents in the local community, we have decided to restrict the hours during which unaccompanied children can be served.

“We have regular meetings with Durham Police and share all relevant information as and when incidents occur.

“The restrictions will remain under review and we hope the situation will improve so we can return to normal operations as soon as possible.”

Antisocial behaviour in the town centre has been a problem for many years and previously centred around the bus station.

Efforts to deter trouble-makers has included playing soothing classical music into the stands to encourage young people to find another place to congregate.

Problems in the town centre hit the national headlines after Bonfire Night in 2018 when a gang of around 100 youngsters attacked police with stones.

Earlier this year Stanley Town Council’s strategic grant fund awarded £300 to the town’s Neighbourhood Watch Association, with the aim of eliminating crime and nuisance behaviour.

The association said the money is being used to design and print leaflets for residents, detailing how to spot and react to potential issues of antisocial behaviour and also numbers and contact details of who to call should incident occur.

The 24-hour McDonald’s restaurant and drive-thru on Clifford Road opened in May last year, creating 60 jobs.

It was built on the site of an empty building off Ritson Street, which was demolished to make way for the two-storey restaurant.

Dave Stewart, Durham Constabulary’s Neighbourhood Inspector for Stanley, said monthly meetings were set up before the opening and were a proactive way of identifying and reviewing incidents connected with the restaurant.

Insp Stewart added: “This has worked effectively to this point. We will review the need for them after May 2020.

“Potential problems caused by teenagers are not specific to Stanley or McDonald’s and we always work to find positive ways of engaging with the communities we serve.

“I would say the vast majority of younger visitors to the restaurant have behaved very well and been a credit to themselves.

“On the rare occasion an adult or younger person does let themselves down we deal with it quickly and proportionately.”