A NEIGHBOURHOOD renewal initiative aiming to tackle issues ranging from fuel poverty to antisocial behaviour in an area with a high rate of deprivation has scored some successes despite the pandemic.

Whilst it is expected to take years to achieve some measurable improvements in the Northgate area of Darlington, since the end of the first lockdown the multi-agency programme has seen “significant progress”, a council meeting has heard.

The scheme, which was approved by the council last December, will see a range of interventions, from support and advice to enforcement activities where required, aims to improve residents’ in all areas of their wellbeing.

The project was triggered after mounting concerns over the many younger deprived families living in private rented accommodation in Northgate area west of North Road.

Amid growing national debate over rogue landlords and access to support for tenants, the council set out to investigate what support it could give tenants that would address issues such as antisocial behaviour.

However, after research uncovered a range of issues stemming from deprivation in the area, including fuel poverty and poor health outcomes, the scheme’s aims have been widened in the hope of producing “meaningful and sustained outcomes to deprived residents”.

The meeting heard the immediate visible changes in the area, which had been “hugely important in terms of how people are feeling over housing”, included action to reduce the number of empty properties.

Between December last year and September the number of empty private rented properties in the area fell from 177 to 139.

Councillors heard work was also progressing on tackling fuel poverty in the area in a number of ways after almost 150 rented properties were identified as having below the legally required minimum energy efficiency rating.

The authority’s stronger communities portfolio holder, Councillor Jonathan Dulston told the meeting the authority intends to use findings from the initiative to drive improvements over the environment, health, economy, childhood and education, and crime across the borough.

However, when asked if the council would consider licensing landlords, as neighbouring Durham council does, he said such a move would be “very labour intensive”,