By Ryan Gould
The response to the deaths of three Durham University students has made Durham safer, according to a new report by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
RoSPA’s report said that there had been significant effort to improve river safety in Durham, leading to a “much improved environment.” The report said that safety measures have been introduced “without detrimentally impacting on the public’s ability to use and enjoy the river.”
The report comes around a year following RoSPA’s initial review of the safety of Durham’s riverbanks, which was prompted following the drownings of Sope Peters, Luke Pearce, and Euan Couthard within 15 months.
The improvements to Durham’s riverbanks have been led by the City Safety Group, which set aside £230,000 to improve riverside footpaths by installing new railings and lights. In the months following Euan Coulthard’s death, the City Safety Group also introduced breathalyser tests at club doors and improved taxi and nightbus services.
The City Safety Group, which includes representatives from Durham County Council, Durham University, and Durham Cathedral, was praised by RoSPA for their effort to improve riverside safety as a “very good model for other regions and cities to adopt.”
David Walker, RoSPA’s Lesiure Safety manager, said: “Whilst no-one can eliminate risk and personal responsibility is a key factor, the group’s work has had a significant impact on making Durham an even safer city.”
Oliver Sherratt, Durham County Council’s interim Corporate Director of Neighbourhood Services and the group’s new chair, said: “Whilst it’s important to say that Durham is a very safe city and it’s heartening to receive such a sound endorsement of our work, there’s no room for complacency and, as a group, we will need to regularly review the wide range of safety measures in place.”
Durham’s response was also praised recently in a new national strategy to halve the number of accidental water deaths across the UK by 2026.
Photograph: Venus Loi