WHEN Darlington Borough Council announced they were going to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to litter, we welcomed their hard-line stance.

There is no excuse for dropping litter in the town centre, and it is nice to see a council proactively attempting to address a problem that is far too often overlooked.

In these times of financial austerity, it was inevitable the council would have to appoint an outside company to enforce their litter rules. We have no objection to the decision to pay Kingdom Services Group to patrol Darlington town centre, issuing on-the-spot fines.

However, we share the concerns that are voiced in today’s Northern Echo about the “persistent and intimidating tactics” that Kingdom are alleged to have been using.

We have received reports of agents chasing people in the street, tracking smokers in case they drop their cigarette butts and entering businesses to confront customers, depriving shop owners of some much-needed trade.

Clearly, this kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable. Kingdom has had contracts with other local authorities axed because of concerns over intimidation, and while Darlington Borough Council say they will reassess the situation at the end of a six-month pilot scheme, they have to be prepared to take immediate action if it is required.

Fighting back against littering is a laudable aim, but there has to be a balance. A clean town centre is no use to anyone if people are afraid to walk around it.