POLICE hope to block a company's bid to convert Durham's Robins Cinema into an Australian theme nightspot.

Later this month, Regent Inns will ask magistrates for a drinks licence and permission to open until 2am for the Walkabout bar, in North Road.

But police are worried that the plan will add to the city's increasing late-night disorder and violence and could spark a trade war with bars competing to offer the cheapest drinks.

They have already lodged an objection to the planning application submitted by the firm, warning that it has serious implications and plan to oppose the licence bid.

North Road, which is home to two nightclubs, is already a trouble hotspot in a city where disorder has increased by 14 per cent in the past year.

Durham's divisional police commander Superintendent Eric Suddes said: "We will be objecting because we are worried about increased disorder within the city centre, particularly late night problems in the North Road and Market Place areas. To address those concerns we have doubled patrols in the city centre in a bid to deal with the disorder, which is generally the product of young people drinking too much.

Last month, Durham City Council's development control committee was recommended to approve the planning application, but deferred a decision to look at the police objections in detail.

Planning officials said there was no evidence that substantially more drinkers would be drawn to Durham by the proposed bar.

They also told councillors that fears of increased trouble were pure speculation and refusing permission could not be sustained in planning terms.

The planning application, which residents, nightclub owners and the City of Durham Trust are opposing, is due to be considered in the next few weeks.