POLICE have pledged to crack down on under-age drinking behind an historic church.

Residents of Crossgate, in Durham City, have complained of anti-social behaviour and late-night drinking in the grounds of St Margaret’s Church, which celebrated its 850th anniversary in 2010.

One resident said most weekends a bench, lawns and pathways were littered with carrier bags, takeaway food containers and beer bottles, most of them deliberately smashed on the path.

The problem has been raised with police and will be discussed during a Police and Communities Together (Pact) meeting to be held as part of Crossgate Community Partnership’s (CCP) annual general meeting in North Road Methodist Church, North Road, on Tuesday (January 8) at 7.45pm.

CCP spokesman Roger Cornwell said he had written to the police, asking them to present what they knew to the forum.

The group was still trying to gather information, including from the church, he added.

Paul Anderson, neighbourhood inspector for Durham City, said the issue was “on the radar” and officers had seized alcohol from under-age drinkers found in the area on Wednesday.

No charges are to be brought but officers spoke to the parents of the children involved.

Insp Anderson said it had initially been thought students were causing the problems but in fact younger children were to blame.

“We’re aware of the issues. We’re discussing it with the community and we’ll be making all attempts to resolve the situation,” he said.

No-one at St Margaret’s Church could be contacted for comment.

Durham was plagued by under-age drinking at internet-marketed youth discos last year, including one event which led to 31 teenagers being referred to specialist drug and alcohol services.

In October, three city centre bars failed test purchase operations, selling alcohol to a 15-year-old girl working as part of a police sting operation. All bar staff involved were given £80 fixed penalty notices.

Meanwhile, Insp Anderson said Durham City had been relatively trouble-free over the festive period. It was a busy time, he said, but thankfully there had been few incidents.