PRISONERS are putting their time behind bars to good use – by using it to help keep other criminals at bay.
Iron gates are being made by inmates before being installed in a neighbourhood to stop fly-tipping.
The idea is the brainchild of Horden Colliery Residents’ Association and will see 32 gates blocking off yards in the village’s streets.
They will be installed by those serving community orders with the Probation Service.
Fly-tipping has been a problem in the area, with many open yards becoming a magnet for criminals, creating health and fire hazards.
The first set of gates, made by prisoners in HMP Kirkelvington in North Yorkshire, has been installed in Seventh Street.
Each will be embossed with the address of the property so that if they are stolen, they can be traced back to the house.
The project is being funded with £3,500 from the East Durham Area Action Partnership and it is hoped the landlords and owners of the properties being improved will make a donation once they see the results of the work.
The leaders of the programme say the time and resources previously spent by the workers cleaning up after fly-tippers will not benefit the whole community.
Organisers have also been able to track down some previously uncontactable landlords, which could pave the way for future improvements.
John Barnett, chairman of the residents’ association, said: “The gates are absolutely brilliant. I’m thrilled to bits with them.
“These gates are cost effective and when you think about how much they are and the benefit they will have, the money is negligible.
“What we are going to do as part of the project is photograph the gate and show it to the landlords, communicate with them, and we hope they will see how great it is and we’ll ask them to make a donation.
“If this is a success, and I have every reason to think it will be, it could be rolled out to other areas of the county.”
In several cases additional work has had to be carried out to brickwork in preparation for the gates to be put in place.
The project, which has also won the support of police and Durham County Councillor Paul Stradling, follows on from the One Street at a Time campaign, where yards, back lane and land is cleared of waste.