A CONTROVERSIAL move to tackle antisocial behaviour in the heart of Darlington has proved “a great success”, it has been claimed.

Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet will hear since the authority launched a Public Spaces Protection Order in March there had been a significant reduction of alcohol-related offending, disorderly conduct and begging.

The authority’s previous Labour-led administration said antisocial behaviour was driving away visitors from the town centre and the order would provide police officers, police community support officers and civic enforcement officers extra powers to deal effectively with certain types of antisocial behaviour.

Ahead of the order being launched civil rights organisation Liberty warned the order would effectively “criminalise begging and rough sleeping and will punish some of the town’s most vulnerable people”.

And a Darlington solicitor told the council the order was “mean-spirited in part, unnecessary, and likely to create increased problems of criminality”.

An officers report to the council’s Cabinet states since March, 48 warnings and ten fixed penalty notices have been issued. In addition, two people have been reported for summons, resulting in court proceedings.

It states: “Public and business feedback has been positive with no adverse comments or complaints during the reporting period. Any initial concerns relating to ‘criminalising’ vulnerable people remains unfounded at this time. It is concluded the order has been used effectively, certainly proportionately, and has contributed to making Darlington a more attractive and safer place to live, work and visit.”

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, the authority’s community safety portfolio holder, said the first six months of the order had been “a great success” and was not aimed at young people.

He said: “We need to keep young people engaged in coming into the town centre. Safety is the starting point for the town centre - it’s our main priority.”