Following the statement from Ilkley's three District Councillors on Monday who said they would not support the application for bathing water status at the River Wharfe in Ilkley, the Ilkley Clean River Group issued this statement on their Facebook page Wednesday evening in response:
"Ilkley district councillors have raised a number of concerns, namely safety, increasing visitor numbers and anti-social behaviour as reasons not to support the Town's application for designated bathing status. In fact, rather than make the situation worse, designation helps the Town address these issues. The river is currently a public health hazard with 201 raw sewage discharges over 114 days in 2019 (data provided by Yorkshire Water). This means local people and visitors are paddling, playing and bathing in sewage. However unlike high currents you can't see the hazard of sewage.
"Currently people come to Ilkley on hot sunny days, to enjoy the park and the river. Designation is a separate issue which solely addresses the pollution problem, and is only for the summer months when the river is typically in low flow and is as warm as the outside air temperature.
"'Discover Ilkley' is the Town's strategy to encourage visitors, particularly important as we face a recession. All communities with waterways should have a water safety strategy and we are glad to support the Town in developing this. The Councillors can put this in place now, and we look forward to contributing.
"Designation has the added benefit of requiring Bradford Council to put in place a management plan for the riverside so that there are facilities to support the people that use the river, just like you see at the seaside. If we are successful the Environment Agency will have to test the water quality every week. They will then work with the Council on signage so that people coming to Ilkley know the overall water quality, but most importantly they will know of any serious risks to their health of the water that day.
"The anti-social behaviour the councillors identify was as we all know national problem post lockdown, with no time for anyone to prepare toilets, bins or policing. This is a separate issue from designation. We know that the councillors are concerned that designation will attract more tourists, and we support the 'Discover Ilkley' strategy, the excellent work already going on with the Town Council Friends of Riverside Park, Police and Council to ensure that the river is enjoyed peacefully by all. Designation is awarded where there is high usage and is intended to support that usage; it is not a marketing strategy.
"Most importantly with regular water testing the problem of sewage pollution in Ilkley can be properly addressed, with investigation and investment to ensure that our sewage is treated, and that sewage is discharged into the river only under exceptional circumstances. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Town to secure the infrastructure to clean up the river here.
"The designation application is supported by hundreds of Ilkley people who took part in the Ilkley survey last year, by Ilkley Town Council, by our MP, and by Friends of Ilkley Riverside Parks, Friends of Ilkley Moor, Friends of Ilkley Lido, Ilkley's University of the 3rd Age Environment Forum, and Climate Action Ilkley."
The DEFRA consultation runs until 2 October: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/water/bathing-water-river-wharfe-ilkley/