A new STACK entertainment venue offering food, drink and live music will open in Durham city centre after plans for the multi-storey site were approved. 

The popular venue owner has set its sights on Durham as part of expansion plans across the North East, building on the success of its Newcastle and Seaburn venues. 

Although STACK is known for converting old shipping containers into multi-purpose units the new Durham venue will see developers bring the former M&S on Silver Street back into full use. The site is currently occupied by the Yorkshire Trading Company discount store but only the ground floor is open. 

STACK says the new venue will create a “leisure and social community hub concept” that will “substantially contribute to the city centre’s overall vitality and viability, and support and enhance both its day and night-time economies”.

The Northern Echo: STACK will take over the Silver Street building currently occupied by Yorkshire Trading Company STACK will take over the Silver Street building currently occupied by Yorkshire Trading Company (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

A new rooftop area has also been proposed, with a new shop front design like other STACK venues. On the ground floor, there will be eight food traders and two ground areas surrounding a central seating ‘plaza’ area. A stage will host live music and comedy.

There will be four more food traders and two more bars on the first floor, with the second floor designated for a games area. A licence to consume alcohol from 10am to 12am Monday to Thursday, extended to 1am on Friday and Saturday, was recently granted and includes an extension until 2am on New Year’s Eve and bank holidays.

It comes after an application for a similar venue in Bishop Auckland was recently approved

However, some residents raised concerns over safety issues surrounding the new development and said the city centre already contains too many drinking venues.

Speaking at a planning meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Grenville Holland, of the City of Durham Parish Council, said: “STACK does not meet the aspirations of those who live and work in the city.” 

Local members also argued that key public safety information was missing from the planning application, and warned that the proposed fire exit onto Moatside Lane is narrow and a danger to intoxicated visitors, particularly those wearing high heels.

Roger Cornwell, of the local civic society, the City of Durham Trust, said: “It is narrow, dark, twisting and sloping. Funnelling crowds into a confined space is a recipe for catastrophe. Anybody falling may well be crushed and serious injury or death could result.”

The Northern Echo: Moatside Lane (pictured) has been identified as a fire exit route for the venue Moatside Lane (pictured) has been identified as a fire exit route for the venue (Image: The Northern Echo)

His concerns were echoed by Green Party councillor Jonathan Elmer who warned of a repeat of crowd crushes involving visitors, after the tragic death of student Olivia Burt, who died following a crowd surge outside a Durham nightclub in 2018

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Yet despite the concerns, committee members hailed the plan to repurpose one of the city’s largest buildings in a prominent location.

Cllr Carl Marshall said: “This isn’t just an establishment that’s going to attract stag and hen dos, it’s going to really diversify the offering in Durham and the wider county.”

And referencing the other STACK sites in Newcastle - now closed but development on new site is ongoing - and Seaburn, he praised how they provide fun for all the family.  

“They have added extra vitality to the location and they have been really popular with the public,” he added. 

The proposal was passed by eight votes to three.

Neill Winch, CEO of Danieli Group, which owns STACK, said: “The proposal will support bringing back to life this part of the city by providing complementary multi-functional space that acts as a key attractor to it.

“STACK venues are successful in attracting both residents and visitors to not only the offering at STACK but to the wider area.

“Our experience has shown that, wherever a STACK is created, existing businesses in the immediate area also benefit hugely and we have no reason to believe this won’t be the case in Durham,” he added.

“STACK Durham will be a focal point and an attraction offering a wide mix of street food and a variety of live entertainment for people of all ages, contributing positively to the city’s overall viability and vitality.”