“You can see the improvement straight away,” “painting has really lifted the Front Street,” “thanks a lot for your help, really made a difference” and “great to see the kids getting involved.”

This is just some of the feedback received by Durham County Council to the work of its award winning environmental campaign Operation Spruce Up in three more communities.

Spruce Up aims to get town and village centres ‘clean and green’ via an intensive spell of activity in one location each month.

The programme, which won a Keep Britain Tidy award earlier this year, sees teams from across different areas of the council work with community groups, schoolchildren and businesses.

Spruce Up, which sees attention given to footpaths, bollards, bins, benches, fences, weeds, shrubs and trees, recently finished work at Gilesgate, having previously operated in Pelton and Tow Law. The programme started at its latest destination, Shildon, yesterday (Monday 25 June.)

Cllr Brian Stephens, the council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “Operation Spruce Up has now visited 17 locations with the combined efforts of our staff and our partners delivering environmental improvements which people are noticing and praising. We’re hoping to make a similar impression at Shildon.”

At Gilesgate work took in Gilesgate Bank, the junction between Sunderland Road and Sherburn Road, Bradford Crescent, Churchill Square and surrounding areas.

Assisting teams from the council were elected members, representatives of its Durham Area Action Partnership, staff and pupils from Gilesgate Primary School, local residents and staff from County Durham Housing Group.

Staff from the council assisted with the planting of flowers at the school and delivered campaign assemblies to pupils, educating them on the importance of looking after their local environment.

At Tow Law, the campaign focused on the A68, Dan’s Castle, Castle Bank, High Street, Bridge Street and surrounding areas and saw council teams supported again by the authority’s local members, representatives from its 3 Towns Area Action Partnership, members from Tow Law Town Council and local residents.

Planting was carried out with the help of Tow Law Millennium Primary School where staff from the council delivered a Spruce Up assembly.

A small garden on Castle Bank was cleared ahead of its replanting by council staff working with the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends programme. This will create a more ‘dementia friendly’ garden with new coloured seating and a sensory area.

At Pelton work took in the Front Street, Pelton Lane and the surrounding areas.

Children from Pelton Community Primary School took part in a litter pick which covered its grounds and the surrounding area, collecting 15 bags of rubbish.

 A Spruce Up poster competition was held at the school along with one of the campaign assemblies, one of which was also delivered at Roseberry Primary.

The poster competition saw children competing in their classes with six year old Megan Bryden chosen as the overall winner.

Spruce Up launched in November 2016 and a survey conducted in communities visited by the programme has shown that 90 per cent of those asked noticed an improvement as a result of the work done.

It won Campaign of the Year at the environment charity’s annual awards and was also a national finalist in the Local Government Chronicle Awards.

Cllr Stephens added: “It’s been great as ever to have schoolchildren involved at Gilesgate, Tow Law and Pelton and I’m looking forward to seeing the new dementia friendly garden in place at Castle Bank.”