A CARING neighbour has won a top award for transforming a piece of waste land into a safe haven for youngsters.

Unknown to him, enterprising Terry Dixon was nominated for a Taking a Stand Home Office award, and was chosen from thousands of applicants for the accolade.

The modest 46-year-old said the award belonged to the local community, particularly the youngsters of St Hilda's, Middlesbrough. He said he would use the £1,000 prize money to improve the neighbourhood.

Mr Dixon will also feature in a television documentary about anti-social behaviour and ways of tackling it.

Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon said: "Terry Dixon is clearly a man who has the interests of his community at heart and with others like him we can help things along in St Hilda's.

"I am sure that the people in that community will agree with me that this is a well deserved award.''

Mr Dixon said: "All we set out to do was to create a safe play area for the kids. People were racing down the street in stolen vehicles. I was saying to them to behave. I saw next door's young one nearly get knocked over.

"Anti-social behaviour is kids with nothing to do, the result of boredom.

"I thought if I could keep the kids away from that, we have achieved something. And we have got a safe, happy area.''

He began by fencing off the cleared, grassed site of a long demolished warehouse, at the bottom of Nile Street, with blocks of sandstone.

He made picnic tables and chairs from donated pieces of timber. He also planted the edges of the site with flowers and shrubs rescued from skips. Mini sports pitches were then marked out.

The work achieved by Mr Dixon and an army of local children encouraged Middlesbrough Council to bring forward plans for a clean up of the area.

Mr Dixon was nominated for his award by the Cleveland Youth Association, which joined forces with him in the transformation of the derelict site.