FEARS have been raised that a new woodland bridge connecting two Teesside communities will lead to crime.

The plan to build a footbridge connecting Thornaby to Ingleby Barwick through woods was passed at Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday.

However residents have said that a previous bridge, which was removed after an arson attack about ten years ago, was a convenient escape route for criminals who would store stolen material in the woods.

Bill Feldon, former mayor of Ingleby Barwick, said the same problem could happen again. He said: “There was outrageous behaviour until the bridge was removed. It was a convenient escape route for criminals. Police knew the area very well. Gardens were used as toilets.”

George Dobey, another Barberry Close resident, said: “The six properties nearest to the woods were burgled. Seven times our home was broken into in the daytime with the result of damage, smashed glass and mess made.”

Leonard Walker, of Barberry Close, near to the woods on the Ingleby Barwick side, wrote in to the council.

He said: “On my own property we had the garden shed broken into and equipment stolen, some of which was later found strewn across the field at the fear of our bungalow. Graffiti was sprayed all over our fencing.”

Richard Blackburn, also of Barberry Close, said Northumbrian Water’s nearby pumping station was smashed, causing raw sewage to be leaked into the beck.

However Coun Steve Walmsley, a Thornaby Independent on the planning committee, supported the new bridge, pointing out that anti-social behaviour occurred in all areas, not just Thornaby.

He said: “Burglary is not merely associated with Thornaby. Our property backs on to fields and we were burgled. It turned out they were from Hartlepool.

"I’m not saying everybody from Hartlepool is a crook.

"There was a problem with rubbish being strewn across the woods and it turned out it came from a pub in Ingleby Barwick. I don’t think that law-abiding people should be prohibited from the woods due to a few bad people.”

Councillors voted to install the bridge as part of a council improvement scheme. However a barrier will be erected to prevent it being used by motorcyclists and the area will be patrolled by law enforcement teams.