The UK’s largest pub chain has pleaded not guilty to health and safety breaches after a student died outside one of its nightclubs.

Durham University student Olivia Burt, 20, was fatally injured when a barrier collapsed outside Missoula bar in Durham in February 2018.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided against pursuing corporate manslaughter charges, but Stonegate Pub Company is now being prosecuted by Durham County Council over four alleged breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Charges faced by the firm include failing to ensure that the “decorative perimeter fence around the external seating areas” was suitable for use “as a crowd control barrier”.

It is also charged with failing to identify “the risk to patrons being made to queue alongside the perimeter fence which was unsuitable and inadequate crowd control barrier and not constructed or installed for that purpose”.

Prashant Popat QC entered not guilty pleas on behalf of the company at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

District Judge Helen Cousins adjourned the case until the next hearing at Durham Crown Court on May 18.

She said: “In a case where there has been a fatality, it is of a very complex nature, it is clearly high profile and exceptionally sensitive – my view is that this is a matter best dealt with in the crown court.”

Ms Burt’s parents, Nigel and Paula Burt, followed the proceedings remotely.

Ms Burt was a member of the British sailing team, grew up in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, and had been head girl of Bournemouth School for Girls. She was in her first year of reading natural sciences when she died.