ACTION will be taken to tackle youths taking drugs and lighting fires in a children's play area.

David Wharton, whose home backs onto the site, in the North Road area of Darlington, has raised the problem with the police, Darlington Borough Council, and the town's team of community wardens to stamp out the anti-social behaviour.

The 50-year-old is fed-up with police and fire crews constantly being called out to incidents.

Mr Wharton, of Grass Street, said he is concerned for the safety of elderly residents and youngsters who use the play area, which adjoins the playing fields of North Road Infant and Junior Schools.

He said: "I am becoming fed up by the amount of times police or fire crews are called out.

"On one occasion, the youths had set fire to trees near my home and if it hadn't have been caught in time it would have spread to the street."

He is asking for closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) to be installed and for police officers or community wardens to make regular routine patrols of the area.

"It wouldn't necessarily cost a great deal to put a stop to this behaviour. The town already has a good CCTV system, which could be expanded, and it is part of the community wardens' duties to patrol areas.

"There are also some overgrown parts of the park, which provide cover for the gangs to drink and take drugs. If these bushes were just cut back, it would solve the problem."

Mr Wharton has enlisted the support of ward councillor Fred Lawton.

"We have informed residents about the problem in the community newsletter," said Coun Lawton.

"We have also arranged visits from police officers and community wardens and hope to set up a regular patrol of the park in the near future.

"I have been in talks with the park and open spaces department of the council to arrange for the bushes and shrubs to be cut back, but we are waiting until the nesting season is over to make sure we will not be endangering any birds.

"The long-term plan to rid the park of anti-social behaviour, however, is to provide the youths with things to do or somewhere to go and this is something the council is working on.

"We would also welcome suggestions from the youths."