VILLAGERS have come together to fight anti-social behaviour at a community hub where youths have been terrorising staff, health centre patients and nearby residents for years.

Located in the heart of Coundon and Leeholme, near Bishop Auckland, The Eden Centre is a vital neighbourhood facility, housing two doctors’ surgeries, a dentist, a library and a nursery.

But in recent years, the centre has become a meeting spot for groups of children and teenagers, with nearby residents reporting incidents of drug dealing, vandalism and intimidation.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said he had paid out more than £1,000 over the years to repair damage to his car. Others reported youths running in and out of the Eden Centre and shouting abuse at staff and patients attending appointments. There have even been occasions when staff have had to call the police for assistance to leave the building and lock up at night because of the scale of the abuse and intimidation.

The problem is especially bad during the school holidays and has intensified in recent months, with reports of children as young as ten congregating around the building past 11pm at night. This has prompted Durham Police and residents who attend the local Police and Community Together (PACT) meetings to make it a Pact Priority.

Police patrols have been increased and neighbourhood warden and PACT member Karren Hazelwood has spoken to headteachers at nearby schools, who have agreed to send out letters to parents.

It is also hoped the free WiFi available at the building can be turned off overnight as this often attracts young people to the area.

The situation has already started to improve and Ms Hazelwood assured residents that the PACT team was committed to tackling the problem.

“The local police and PCSOs have been fantastic,” she said. “This is a prime example of how a community can and have come together to make a positive change, recognising that this issue effects everyone in the community and it is everyone’s responsibility.”

The resident quoted earlier said there was not enough for older children to do in the village, and has drawn up plans for a new youth club.

“There is already youth club for younger children but there is nothing for kids over 14,” he said. “When the kids get bored they become disruptive and that’s when the problems start.”

Another man added: “We are not trying to tar all kids with the same brush but this is a safeguarding issue. These children are at risk and are easy prey to drug dealers and other criminals.”