City Safety Group announces new railings and improved lighting in bid to improve river safety

  • Existing fencing near Baths Bridge and Framwellgate Bridge will be extended.

  • Birdsmouth fencing will also be installed on a selection of locations along the riverbank.

  • “A safe, illuminated route” will be created to encourage people to stay away from the riverside at night.

  • City Safety Group Chair Terry Collins: changes are “in keeping with the conservation status of the area”.

  • Construction work will begin on the 6th July, with majority of changes being completed within 12 weeks.

  • A full summary of the changes can be found here

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An artist’s impression of how the new lighting and railings will look (Photograph: City Safety Group)

By Henry Clare 

The City Safety Group has announced major physical changes to Durham’s riverside in a bid to improve safety, following the deaths of three students in the last two years.

As part of these changes, existing fences near Baths Bridge and Framwellgate Bridge will either be replaced or extended, with extra birdsmouth fences being installed at a selection of locations along the riverbank.

“Safe, illuminated” pathways will also be created, proving students and residents with a “route to follow without needing to approach the riverbanks, which could potentially be unsafe to use during the hours of darkness”. These pathways will be created on South Street and up ‘Windy Gap’.

Furthermore, the footpath approaching Framwellgate Bridge, where Euan Coulthard tragically died in January, will be resurfaced on the west bank, following the recommendation of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) report in April.

The news follows the tragic deaths of Sope Peters, Luke Pearce and Euan Coulthard (Photo: Venus Loi)
The follows the tragic deaths of Sope Peters, Luke Pearce and Euan Coulthard (Photograph: Venus Loi)

A river erosion prevention scheme will also be launched, following observations that the edges of part of the riverside have become ill defined as a result of natural erosion. A willow flood barrier will therefore be created in order to prevent this.

As part of the changes, all public rescue equipment will be upgraded and improved where necessary, and equipment will be closely monitored through a regime of regular inspections.

A full summary of the changes can be found here

Construction work will begin on the riverside from the 6th July, and will continue throughout the summer and into autumn.

Although it an official statement claimed that the majority of the work would be finished within 12 weeks, Terry Collins, Chair of the City Safety Group, warned that the “complexities of the environment” could mean that the work is not finished until November. He did, however, guarantee that most of the work would be done before the biannual Lumiere Festival.

Willow spiling is seasonal and will therefore be implemented between November and April, dependent on the weather.

A display showing the changes will be placed beside the Gala Theatre for two weeks.

These changes are the latest in a series of major reforms by the City Safety Group, including:

Professor Graham Towl 600x400
Professor Graham Towl, claimed in January that the University takes student safety “very seriously” (Photograph: James Poole)

Improved guardianship arrangements

A pilot scheme of breathalysers

A series of alcohol education and awareness schemes, including Durham Student Union’s (Durham SU’s) ‘Never Have I Ever’ campaign.

Arrangements between a number of taxi operators and Durham University.

The re-launching of the Durham SU’s night-bus

The launch of a series of student volunteer groups, and the continued emphasis on the work done by Durham Street Lights.

Terry Collins, the Chair of the City Safety Group, which comprises Durham University, Durham SU, Durham Constabulary, Durham County Council and Durham Cathedral, said: “We have always been clear that we would do everything we were able to do in support of safety improvements in the city and we will continue to do so.

“Whilst it is impossible to mitigate every risk, we hope that together the safe drinking messages and physical works will be of significant value”.

Speaking exclusively to Palatinate, Collins said the City Safety Group had found something “sensitive and proportionate”.

Collins said that the City Safety Group had been selective in choosing the areas where improvement is to be made: “We’re not fencing the whole river. This is disproportionate and unnecessary.”

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An artist’s impression of the fencing between Framwellgate Bridge and the boathouse (Photograph: City Safety Group)

RoSPA’s review identified the path between Framwellgate Bridge and Prebends Bridge as the most dangerous part of the river, where the City Safety Group will extend the railings already there.

“The changes will match with what’s already in place…This will enhance the visitor experience and maximise safety”.

The City Safety Group will also install nine new Public Rescue Equipment units, three of which have already been paid for by the £2,591 raised during a campaign to improve safety around the River Wear, led by the concerned mother of a Durham University student.

Collins stressed that the changes “are not just for students, they are for the whole public’s benefit” and that it wasn’t just a case of student safety, but a “general safety issue”.

Palatinate was told that these changes will cost around £230,000, which will be paid for by the Council, University and Cathedral.

When asked about the success of using breathalysers across Durham City, Collins said he had heard “nothing but positives” and that there will be a review on the use of breathalysers in August.

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