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Greens lead call for action to tackle sewage discharges in rivers

Bradford Council has agreed to demand that Yorkshire Water and the government do more to tackle sewage discharge into the district's rivers following Green Party proposals. 

An open sewer discharging into a local riverThe motion, proposed by Councillor Celia Hickson (Tong Ward) called on the Chief Executive of Bradford Council to do more to hold Yorkshire Water to account following data that showed the water company had pumped sewage into the River Aire 4,085 times in 2021 - the highest number of any river in Great Britain.

In her speech, Councillor Hickson said, “Work by local groups such as Friends of Bradford Beck and the Aire Rivers Trust and local individuals such as the Urban Pollution Hunter, has highlighted the sustained overuse of combined sewer overflows, which is degrading our local river habitats causing fish and invertebrate deaths and river bed overgrowth with sewage fungus.

“In short, our water environment is in crisis. The regeneration of the City and redevelopment of Bradford Beck site alongside Canal Road are essential elements of growth of our local economy. But there is little point in this work if the water flowing through the beck is of low quality and the water environment is degraded and impoverished by sewage contamination.”

Conservative councillors attempted to water down proposals and strip away criticism of the government for their failure to better regulate the industry.

Responding Councillor Hickson said,

“Robbie Moore MP voted against the Lord’s amendment that would have placed a legal duty on water companies to make demonstrable improvements in our water system - rather than platitudes.

“Regulation requires enforcement. The Environment Agency is currently underfunded and under-resourced and hasn’t got enough staff to do the enforcement required to keep our rivers clean.”

Carla Denyer and Ros Brown talking to each other on the banks of the River Whatfe. There are a lot of trees on both sides of the river and a small suspension bridge in the background.Ilkley Town Councillor Ros Brown, who is standing for the Green Party in this years’ local elections said,

“Ilkley Clean River Group have worked incredibly hard and led the way nationally when it comes to cleaning up the River Wharfe and securing bathing status in Ilkley. They have also been leaders when it comes to campaigning for better regulation of water quality - despite the opposition from Conservative MPs.

“It is incredibly disappointing that instead of defending their party’s record, Conservative District Councillors in Ilkley have used their platform to make misleading comments about me in public.

“I have been very clear that Yorkshire Water needs to invest in improving water quality in Ilkley. But at the same time, they also need to make sure residents are kept informed about the progress of the current works on Ashlands Field and they need to compensate the school and our community for the loss of use during the works.

“It is strange that at the end of his speech, Councillor Loy said we needed a well-regulated water industry when his MP Robbie Moore voted against attempts by the House of Lords to better regulate the industry and has been very clear that he believes further regulation isn’t necessary.”