“A significant amount of effort has provided a much improved environment”… Safety improvements have been made “without detrimentally impacting on the public’s ability to use and enjoy the river”… “The group’s work and continued plans are a very good model for other regions and cities to adopt” – These are just some of the findings of a report on the impact of the work of Durham’s City Safety Group (CSG) by the national safety charity the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
The report concludes that the safety group’s work relating to barriers, footpaths, lighting and public rescue equipment has resulted in high risk areas being eliminated. RoSPA also reported that the physical infrastructure works have been further enhanced and supported by widespread training and education programmes which have targeted the cultural and behavioural safety issues. In addition, while it’s clear water will always present a hazard and personal responsibility has to be taken when drinking alcohol near the river corridor, it’s also clear the improvements made in Durham have significantly reduced the possibility of anyone accidentally falling into the water.
The new Chair of Durham’s City Safety Group, Oliver Sherratt, said: “As a group we invited RoSPA back following the completion of a really wide range of physical improvements and a continuing programme of training, education and risk assessment in the city.
“Whilst it’s important to say that Durham is a very safe city and it is heartening to receive such a sound endorsement of our work, there is no room for complacency and, as a group; we will need to regularly review the wide range of safety measures in place.”
The City Safety Group was established in February 2015, following the tragic death of three students in the river within a 15 month period. The partnership includes representatives from Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary, Durham University,
the University’s Students’ Union and, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.
Following a raft of improvements to guardianship arrangements, additional and bespoke training on the safe sale of alcohol for staff and managers at licensed premises in the city, and the introduction of safe transport initiatives by the University and Students’ Union, RoSPA first undertook an inspection of riverside safety in Durham In spring 2015 at the group’s invitation.
At the time the charity praised the focus, speed and commitment of the partners to improve water safety but highlighted a number of high risk areas along the river corridor where improvements could be made. In response the county council, Cathedral and University jointly funded a £230,000 programme of works. The county council carried out the improvements, which were implemented in keeping with the local conservation area status and environment. Aspects ranged from river erosion work to additional signage as well as the installation of sympathetic lighting on Windy Gap, resulting in a full circuit lit route for pedestrian’s to follow at night away from the riverbanks.
RoSPA’s leisure safety manager, David Walker, said: “The group’s work and continued plans are a very good model for other regions and cities to adopt and we are promoting Durham’s City Safety Group as good practice to others.
“The council has demonstrated its commitment to the continued promotion of water safety by hosting our national water safety conference in November – we would strongly encourage this continued sharing of learning.
“The current activities of the group should be commended and maintained to ensure that future challenges are identified and managed.
“Whilst no one can eliminate risk and personal responsibility is a key factor, the group’s work has had a significant impact on making Durham an even safer city.”
The City Safety Group will continue to meet on a quarterly basis, with additional meetings held immediately in response to any significant incident to review what happened and to consider if any further action is required. There will also be an ongoing review of the physical control measures, regular inspection regimes and a continuation of the much praised University ‘Get Home Safe’ scheme. A public health funded programme is also well underway to underline responsible drinking messages and the award winning Best Bar None programme will continue with pace.