MP hits out at Durham licensing policy

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‘It is damning that it has taken the death of a student’ to force a discussion on issues with Durham’s night time economy, the city’s MP has said.

Oliva Burt, 20, died outside Missoula nightclub in the Walkergate area, after suffering head injuries in an incident involving a safety barrier on February 7.

In a statement prepared ahead of a review of the bar’s licence this week by Durham County Council’s (DCC) Statutory Licensing Sub-Committee, Labour’s Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods promised Miss Burt’s family she would do all she could to ‘prevent another death in these circumstances’.

She said: “This is the first time in 10 years that anyone in authority in the city has shown any interest in the problems that exist in the Walkergate complex, rather than simply treating the city as a cash cow.

“It is damning that it has taken the death of a student to even get the issue on the council agenda.”

She added: “Despite holding a number of public meetings over many years that raised important concerns for the licensing committee in relation to Walkergate, and the need for a bespoke licensing policy for the city, it is clear that these concerns have not been listened to, and nothing has been done to address them.”

A representative appearing at Durham County Hall on the MP’s behalf was not permitted to read the statement in its entirety at the meeting as it related to wider issues beyond the panel’s remit.

This was strictly to consider the licence for Missoula.

Councillors had the option to permanently or temporarily revoke the venure’s licence, but instead decided on a new ‘operational plan’ agreed between Durham Constabulary and the Stonegate Pub Company, which runs the bar.

A detailed review of the county council’s licensing policy is due to take place next year, although Dr Blackman-Woods has said this is is ‘simply not soon enough’.

In a statement, Helen Lynch, DCC’s head of legal and democratic services, said: “The committee listened carefully to the evidence from all parties which fell within the scope of their remit and the additional conditions were agreed as a result.

“Today’s [Tuesday, May 22] review was not about examining cause or attributing blame for the tragic incident which resulted in the death of Olivia Burt.

“Neither was it to review the licensing policy for Durham City – which sits outside the remit of the committee and is scheduled for next year.

“At that point the public and interested parties will be able to comment on the policy and feedback received will be taken into account.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service