POLICE have been urged to carry out increased patrols in Durham following complaints that some returning students are flouting coronavirus rules.

The City of Durham Parish Council said it had received several of complaints over the numbers of students returning to the city, the lack of social distancing and groups gathering.

Durham University has told students not to return to the city after the Christmas break unless they are studying specific subjects during the national lockdown. And students who do return are required to take a coronavirus test on their first day back, followed by further tests.

A parish council spokesperson said: "The parish council wants to make it clear that whilst the vast majority of us, including students, are sensible, we follow the rules and are clear that we must stay at home to protect lives, sadly a small minority now living in our community appear to be breaching the lockdown rules and guidance, thus putting the health and wellbeing of our residents at risk.

"In the context of a new, highly transmissible variant of this virus and over 1,000 daily Covid-19 related deaths nationally, breaches of these rules and guidance are quite simply unacceptable."

He added: "Locally, Durham University continues to fund additional resources in the form of the Community Response Team who are working in partnership with the Police to ensure proper enforcement of these regulations.

"In view of the feedback that we are receiving from our local residents, however, the parish council is seeking a meeting with the Chief Constable of Durham Police in order to gain reassurances about the operations being undertaken to enforce the Covid-19 regulations.

"This includes ensuring that all 101 calls are dealt with swiftly and appropriately by all call handlers as well as ensuring that all members of the Police force are aware of the Community Response Team’s role in Durham city to help support the Police.

"It also includes the possibility of increasing the visible presence of police on the streets of Durham to encourage sensible behaviour."

The parish council has also called for unenforceable guidance to be upgraded to regulations.

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said: “Given the current national lockdown and projected future national situation regarding Covid-19, we have advised students not already in Durham that they should not return to the city before the start of Easter Term (Term 3) except where necessary.

“We are working closely with other agencies and services to ensure our planning is co-ordinated and we are in regular contact with local residents and representatives, including the City of Durham Parish Council, to share our planning and receive feedback.

“Our Community Response Team continues to support the police with student engagement, education and encouragement around Covid-19 legislation and local restrictions.

"They are working both pro-actively, patrolling student areas, and reactively, supporting the police in responding to incidents. All breaches, or perceived breaches, of the Covid-19 lockdown measures must be reported via 101."