Railings and lights finally installed in river safety campaign victory

About time


New safety measures are finally in place in a victory for our campaign.

Controversial fences and lights were demanded after three student deaths in the River Wear.

The fences now run from the Bishop Langley pub all along to Prebends Bridge. The issue had proved a dividing line between locals and concerned students.



The City Safety Group announced back in June the spending of £230,000 to improve the dire situation of fences and lighting. It came at the same time the Street Angels programme was scrapped.

Fences had previously been sidelined by the independent review of river safety, claiming that it would have “limited” use. The reaction to concerned students was vicious – despite 30 incidents involving the river since 2001.

Students had been at the forefront of the campaign – with over 10 000 of us signing a petition for greater river safety and Janis Penn smashing her original target of £1,500 for river safety improvements.


Sleek new fences

Before the summer fences along the River Wear were in a poor and dilapidated condition. Many voiced their anger at the police attempts to curb drinking while the fences laid in a bad state.

Police Chief Mike Barton was in hot water last year after he said: “One thing connected these three young men who died in the river and that was they were so paralytically drunk they were not in control of their bodies.”

Shoddy fences last year

Shoddy fences last year

It was the fence issues and the potential to upset scenic views that often was a flashpoint, with the cause of three student’s deaths being laid at the door of alcohol not fencing. The Lib Dem councillor, Nigel Martin was condemned as callous for his remarks blaming alcohol.

On a blog he wrote: “The unpalatable truth is that all the individuals had been drinking recklessly beforehand, and what has changed in the past few years is the level of such drinking in the student community.”

Nutty UKIP candidate, John Leathley, later blamed “a serial killer” for the tragedies, exposing a deep divide between the student and local attitudes towards the river.