WARRING neighbours will be offered a free mediation service to help resolve their differences.

The scheme is being launched in Rochford and Castle Point to ease pressure off the police and councils.

The initiative will see mediators help tackle squabbles over low-level issues such as noisy neighbours, messy front gardens and irresponsible parking.

The move comes after the Safer Essex Antisocial Behaviour Group agreed to plough £6,000 into the scheme.

Councillor Jo Macpherson, chairman of the Rocford and Castle Point Community Safety Partnership, said: “Neighbour disputes over things like parking, noise nuisance and boundary issues easily get out of hand and can escalate into more serious antisocial, or even criminal behaviour, possibly leading to the involvement of police or other statutory agencies.

“Early intervention through mediation can prevent this but has not always been available to people in the past.

“That’s why we felt it important it should be a free service and easily accessible.”

A pilot scheme tried by Castle Point Citizen’s Advice Bureau in November last year achieved a success rate of almost 90 per cent Of the 21 cases dealt with in four months, 19 were classed as resolved.

The service will now be taking self-referrals as well as those from the police, council, and other services.

The Mediation and Advice Project, a social enterprise company, has been engaged to provide the service. It will provide sessions of up to two hours.

Charlotte Gallagher, one of the mediators, said: “What we are doing is helping people to communicate, to feel safer, to improve relations in the communicate, really to educate people that there’s another way of dealing with things.

“It doesn’t have to get to the point where you go to a solicitor, it’s an expensive option and there’s another way.”

Details can be found on the Rochford District Council website at www.rochford.gov.uk or the Castle Point Borough Council website at www.castlepoint.gov.uk