Ofwat visit to Ilkley catalyses real progress in cleaning up the river


Ilkley Clean River Group welcomed the Ofwat Chair Jonson Cox, and CEO David Black for a visit to Ilkley to secure the town's ambition to clean up the Wharfe at Ilkley.


After a tour of the area, meeting local residents to hear their concerns about the town's engagement in finding solutions to the pollution, and the persistent pollution incidents. They met with Ilkley Town Mayor Cllr Mark Stidworthy to understand the town's experience of trying to secure a better environment for local people and visitors.


Speaking after the meeting Cllr Stidworthy said: "I would like to thank Ofwat for listening to Ilkley residents' views and giving them the respect they deserve. Their visit left no doubt as to the depth of knowledge and concern we have for our local environment, and how we wish to be involved in protecting and enhancing it for future gene rations."


The group was then joined by Keighley and Ilkley MP Robbie Moore, Oliver Stanton Environment Agency Regional Director, Liz Barber, CEO and Lee Pitcher, Director of Partnerships to agree how to progress the clean up of the river.


Robbie Moore said: “My thanks go out to the Ilkley Clean River Group for organising this meeting. Getting key stakeholders around the table and working collaboratively will be the key to cleaning up the River Wharfe. I hope that this model of collaboration is copied across the country as we strive to clean up more of our rivers. I look forward to a continued joined up approach with the Clean River Group, as well as the key stakeholders going forward.”


At the meeting it was agreed:

  • That the whole stretch of the river that the Ilkley Clean River Group successfully applied for as Designated Bathing Status would stand, from the Brook St Bridge all the way to Beanlands Island. This triggers proper signage along the whole stretch which Bradford Council will provide setting out clearly where it is not safe to paddle play or swim because of sewage pollution. Temporary new signs provided by the Ilkley Clean RIver Group will go up this week. This also means there will be progress in improving the quality of the treated sewage to reduce pollution) and storm overflows at the Ashlands Sewage Treatment works.

  • Ilkley will buddy with a river and community that has less local expertise to support them in a parallel clean up. Ilkley Clean River Group is already providing national seminars and mentoring other groups applying for designation. We are trying to spread the clean up nationally.

  • Ilkley will be the exemplar for any river seeking designation, contributing to a new national process for rivers that want to become designated bathing sites.

  • Finally, the community of Ilkley will be involved in finding and agreeing the solutions to the pollution. This means local intelligence and expertise will be used to ensure we get the best solution for Ilkley.

A spokesperson for Clean River Ilkley said: “We know that the longer term solution will mean

improvements at the sewage treatment works; de-combining at least parts of the sewage system so that rainwater goes straight into the river, and only household waste goes to the sewage works; better sustainable urban drainage; and all of those living in Ilkley being careful about what we put down the loo. All of this will be more achievable with the support of the town.”


“The Ofwat Chair and CEO were instrumental in securing a better collaboration between all parties focused on Ilkley and making the most of what we have achieved here.“