AN MP has called on the council the decide whether it wants Durham to be an upmarket heritage city or destination for hen parties.

Speaking ahead of a review of licensing policy across County Durham, MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said there should be stronger rules to tackle late night bars in Durham city centre.

Dr Blackman-Woods called for Durham County Council to use the review to address the number of late licences in Durham, and said it needed to decide who its target market was.

She said: “The council hasn’t defined what it’s wants to be. I go to tourism meetings and they talk about the heritage of the city but then what they’re actually doing with these licences is attracting hen parties.

"You can’t market yourself as an upmarket historic city and as a really good place for hen parties. I’m not saying which of those they should do, but they can’t do both because one group negates the other.”

Durham County Council is asking for the public's views on its current licensing policy, which expires in October this year and is set to hold a 12-week consultation.

The policy provides advice to businesses and the public on the council's overall position concerning the Licensing Act 2003 and also creates the basis of the decision-making framework for its licensing committee.

Licensing covers a number of areas, including the sale of alcohol, the supply of hot food and drink from a premises between 11pm and 5am, and the provision of entertainment, including playing music, performances and certain indoor sporting events.

While the current policy looks at premises county-wide, Dr Blackman-Woods says it needs to be strengthened in the city centre.

She added: "Over the years, the licenses have been getting later and later to 2am and then 4am. There’s an issue with the cumulative impact.

"There are a lot of issues around safety because of that.

"It’s one thing in a big city having late licences but the problem with Durham is it’s so small people live near the city centre. There isn’t a separate place where no-one lives."

She added that the increasing number of premises which hold late licences has led to the need for an unsustainable degree of "intensive policing".

Cllr Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “It’s important that our licensing policy balances the legitimate needs of businesses in the county, and the demand for leisure and cultural activities, alongside the need to protect those that could possibly be adversely affected.”

Craig Rudman, licensing manager at Durham County Council, said: “We are about to consult on our licensing policy for County Durham and welcome all views.”

The MP is holding a public meeting to get people's views on the issue.

It takes place on Friday, March 1 at Alington House, North Bailey, Durham between 5.30pm and 7pm.