Safety Group refuses to rule on barriers along River Wear

By Henry Clare, and


The City Safety Group has refused to decide whether or not to build fences alongside parts of the River Wear at a press conference following the release of the RoSPA report into riverside safety in Durham.

Asked whether the safety group will rule out barriers, Terry Collins, director of Neighbourhood Services, answered “no”, adding that they are “not at this stage ruling anything in nor ruling anything out”.

He added that the group’s role is “to make the river safe as necessary, not as safe as possible.”

“Fences all the way round… [are] not practical, not needed”. He also said: “We felt there was no immediate action required in regard to personal safety”.

The RoSPA report concluded that fences would be “very expensive” and of “limited use” in many areas, adding that more fencing could increase the flood risk and “spoil heritage/aesthetic aspect if not carefully approached”.rospa2

In February, a Palatinate poll found that 85% of students thought the council should make the river safer with 73% saying they thought the river area was dangerous.

Terry Collins: Our role is “to make the river safe as necessary, not as safe as possible.”

The City Safety Group emphasised in the press conference that there is “not one” solution to riverside safety, adding that many people do not want barriers to be put up along the river. Collins said that the issue is “long-term” and that “we feel that we’ve done everything we can”.

It added improved lighting along parts of the river, in particular in the most high risk area between Framwellgate and Mill House Weir, could increase the number of people by the river and increase the risk of people falling in.

Collins: “We feel that we’ve done everything we can.”

Collins said that he did not believe there was an “immediate danger” between Framwellgate and Mill House Weir, which RoSPA had deemed a “high risk” area.

He said the Safety Group would only announce their next steps in the coming weeks.

In other news:

  • The pilot scheme for using breathalysers with licensing premises will last 3 months with six venues taking part.
  • The group said Durham University should review its alcohol policy for the next academic year and the Best Bar None scene, which rewards “responsible” pubs and clubs, should be developed.
  • The group praised Durham University, with Collins saying he was “really impressed” by their work on riverside safety.
RoSPA: Fences should be considered but would be very expensive and of limited use in many areas.

The press conference, which was live blogged by Palatinate, took place after RoSPA released their report into riverside safety in Durham.

The report concluded that building fences along the river “should be considered” but “would be very expensive” and of “limited use” in many areas. The review said that fences could make the area “a significant hot spot for antisocial behaviour or people who actively want to be isolated.”

It also said that more fencing could increase the flood risk and “spoil heritage/aesthetic aspect if not carefully approached”.

It added that the City Safety Group should make decisions on lighting the riverside path “a priority”.

Regarding pathway surfacing, it said that the “main hazard presented were multiple low level trip/fall issues into the river” and that an option could be to improve the maintenance of footpaths and edges.

It said that there are areas which are poorly maintained to the extent “where accidental entry into the river is now foreseeable”.

Professor Ray Hudson, Acting Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Durham University, revealed in a statement that he is “grateful to RoSPA for their good work and their positive response to the City Safety Group’s commission.

“Durham University is committed to doing all it can to reduce risks to safety. We will be carefully considering how we can best enact the RoSPA recommendations and continuing to work with our partners in the City Safety Group.”


Dan Slavin, Students’ Union President, said that he looks forward to the “continued partnership with the University and other members of the City Safety Group to make Durham a safer and enjoyable place to be a student.”

Since the publication of RoSPA’s recommendations, a number of students have given Palatinate their views on the report, and on riverside safety in general.

A second year at St. Mary’s College said: “I thought it was a very measured report, although it didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know already.

“I was reassured by their refusal to rule any options out, including lighting and barriers. Also, they acknowledged that alcohol was part of the problem, but they did not place the whole blame on drinking.

“I can see the downsides of lighting, but overall I think they would be a good idea. I remember loads of people walking by the lit river when Lumiere was on, and it seems like something that could work.”

Julia Knutson, a second year at Collingwood College, described the potential implantation of lighting as a “catch 22”, whilst Jessie Smith, another second year at Collingwood, claimed that lighting will “draw more people down to the river and create more issues”.

The review was announced earlier this year following the deaths of three students, Sope Peters, Luke Pearce and Euan Coulthard within the last 18 months.

Other safety actions have been implemented and can be seen here.

More to follow

We are interested to know what you think about this issue. Please email us at with your name, college and year.

Photographs: RoSPA, and 

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