NEIGHBOURHOODS in need of a boost and a clean-up will come under the watch of a new community action team for County Durham.

The CAT programme will move around the county targeting areas with eight to ten weeks of action to address specific problems and empower communities.

Durham County Council is leading the initiative and will team up with organisations such as town and parish councils, police, fire and rescue and health services.

The task force will operate in some of the most health deprived parts of the country, where there are a large number of private lets and void properties and with degraded environments.

Residents will be encouraged to join the team while it works in their neighbourhood to ensure it targets the most pressing local issues.

This week a CAT initiative was launched in Eldon Lane and Coundon Grange, which will include Bridge Place and part of Eldon, near Bishop Auckland.

A residents meeting will be held on Tuesday February 19, 6pm to 7.30pm, and drop-in sessions on Wednesdays between February 27 and April 3, 3.30pm to 6pm, at the One Stop Shop, High Street, Eldon Lane.

Once key concerns are highlighted there will be six weeks of action to tackle them then measures put in place to sustain the efforts when the team moves on.

Issues are likely to include housing standards, dumped rubbish, derelict or empty properties, abandoned land, noise complaints and underage alcohol and cigarette sales.

The team could also implement energy efficient projects, offer advice on consumer rights and cold callers and promote healthier lifestyles.

CAT coordinator Jennifer Jones said: “Environmental health officers will work with housing and planning colleagues to liaise with owners, occupiers and landlords to take responsibility for their neighbourhood and properties.

“We want to work with them, but will use legal powers if needed.

“Health and wellbeing, including mental health, is closely linked to the environment and people need to have pride in their community.”

The programme will run in a further five locations throughout the year- in the Seaham, Stanley, Sedgefield, Peterlee and Chester-le-Street areas- and is expected to continue across the county in 2014.

The initiative follows successful pilot schemes in West Cornforth, Horden and No Place during which the team tackled 453 problems.

The team hopes that, as in those areas, residents will feel the long term benefits of the action and be more inclined to contact the authorities when issues arise.