CALLS have been made to do something to tackle the culture of drinking in a North-East city.

There has been growing concern among some quarters that the number of licensed premises in Durham is leading to increased anti-social behaviour and is having a negative impact on the city centre – causing it to be described as the "wild west".

It follows an increasing number of bars in the city and more premises seeking to open until 2am or later.

In response, Durham County Council is looking at whether it should introduce a new policy, which would allow it to consider the cumulative impact on the city when deciding future licences, and has started a consultation asking for people's views.

Cllr Brian Stephens, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “A thriving night time economy is important for all cities, but having a large number of bars, night clubs and off-licences within a small area can have a cumulative and detrimental impact on those who live and work nearby.

“That’s why it’s important our licensing policy balances the legitimate needs of businesses and the demand for leisure activities, alongside the need to protect those that could possibly be adversely affected."

“At this stage, we are building up a picture of what the situation is like in Durham and seeking the views of those affected. I would encourage people to take part in the consultation.”

Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods took to Parliament in May to lambast the impact drinking was having on the city, saying it was creating a “hostile and unpleasant” environment.

At the time she also said Durham City Chamber of Trade had told her visitors were unprepared for the "wild west environment".

She said: “It is clear that the current licensing regime has not been working for the city centre for some time, with more and more people contacting me to let me know of the effect the huge increase in late licenses in Durham is having on their lives.

“Although it would have been helpful if the local authority had taken steps to deal with these concerns earlier, it is good news that people who live in the city are finally being listened to, and now have the chance to have their voices heard."

The news was welcomed by members of the City of Durham Parish Council, which is holding a workshop on how to tackle licensing issues on September 30. It takes place at the Town Hall at 6pm.

Cllr Liz Brown, who sits on the county council's licensing committee and also chairs the City of Durham Parish Council's licensing committee, said she was delighted by the news.

She added: "The City of Durham Parish Council has been saying for some time now that Durham needs a specific policy to cover the city area.

"There has been some concern expressed to us about the density of licensed premises in Durham City potentially increasing anti social behaviour."

She added: "People used to go to Newcastle to drink but now they are coming to Durham on a Friday and Saturday.

"Drinking seems to be starting earlier. I think when you're seeing drunken people rolling around the Market Place it puts off residents from going into town and I've heard it's also putting off tourists."

The consultation is open until Friday, November8 and is available by visiting