THE “wild west” environment of Durham is having a negative impact on trade and employment in the city, an MP has told parliament.

During a debate on licensing in Durham, MP Roberta Blackman-Woods told parliament that city centre drinking is becoming increasingly disruptive and is creating a hostile and unpleasant atmosphere which can be off-putting for visitors and people with children.

She told MPs: “It is clear from the feedback that I have received from residents over many years, and my own eyes and ears, that the policy is not working for the city centre.

“The noise created by people moving around the city in the early hours of the morning is extremely disruptive, and the condition of the marketplace, particularly on a Sunday morning, is horrendous, with large amounts of litter left uncollected and the city appearing dirty and unappealing.”

She secured the debate in Westminster to ask what can be done nationally to try and secure a change in Durham County Council's licensing policy and raised concerns about the increasing number of venues with late licences and the use of temporary event notices (TENS), which have seen some premises open until 4am.

The Northern Echo:

Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods

The council is carrying out a review of its policy and Dr Blackman-Woods held a public meeting in March to canvas people’s views.

She said one resident described Durham as “saturated with drinking” while others said it was "obscene" and “ totally unsuitable for children”.

She added: “Durham’s policy states: ‘Licensing services works almost exclusively with, through and for people’. How is it that a policy that clearly states that has allowed Durham to become a place where people feel intimidated?

"Despite working on this issue for more than 10 years, I am being contacted more and more by residents from whom it is becoming unbearable.”

Responding to her comments, Ian Thompson, from Durham County Council, said: “Ensuring our city is a safe and welcoming environment is of paramount importance to us and we work closely with our partners through the Durham City Safety Group to achieve this. Our award-winning Best Bar None scheme, delivered in partnership with Durham Constabulary and licensed premises, has contributed to us having lower levels of alcohol related incidents in comparison to other cities.

“Our licensing policy seeks to balances the legitimate needs of businesses in the county and demand for leisure and cultural activities, alongside the need to protect those who could be adversely affected by licensable activities."

"We are currently in the process of reviewing this policy and recently completed public consultation, with all responses including that of Ms Blackman-Woods now receiving careful consideration.”