A VITAL step in securing a clean river in Ilkley will be taken this month.

The Ilkley Clean River Group is ready to submit an application for designated bathing status for the River Wharfe in Ilkley.

The application will be made to The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which is the government department responsible for environmental protection, once the approval of Bradford Council has been secured.

A spokesperson for the Ilkley Clean River Group said: "Securing bathing water status is a key aim for the group.

"We are pressing for the consent limit to be raised at the Ashlands sewage plant so that raw sewage is only discharged in exceptional weather conditions to comply with legislation, rather than every time it rains."

The campaign group has enjoyed overwhelming support from Ilkley residents who have helped with citizen water testing, counting people bathing in the river and by completing a bathing water status survey.

The spokesperson said: "A total of 527 people completed the survey - 484 residents and 25 businesses. We found visitors and local groups overwhelmingly support having a clean river fit to paddle, play and swim in.

"People thought that it should be safe for children to play in, and for future generations, that the river is critical to us as a spa town and beauty spot, that we swim in the river and it should be safe for bathing, and that if it’s clean for humans it will be clean for our environment."

However, those supporting the bathing water status application had concerns about the river being polluted by sewage.

Overall respondents did not think sewage should be pumped into the river in the 21st century and viewed it as unacceptable.

Seven people did not support having a clean river. They cited two reasons: 'Because the river is not safe to play in, but from an environment perspective it would be a good thing' and 'a clean river will attract more visitors who bring litter and anti-social behaviour'.

"The Ilkley Clean River Group continues to campaign for a swift solution to the sewage discharges in Ilkley, meeting the Ofwat CEO in October with MP John Grogan," added the spokesperson.

"Yorkshire Water are presenting their solution to the persistent problem of sewage spurting from the manholes along the riverside footpath.

"In the meantime they have fitted sensors so that when it happens they can come over and clean up the sewage solids on the path.

"The group is also pressing the Environment Agency to investigate the ongoing problem of sewage solids on the riverbank, and the sewage discharges when it rains - even when the storm tanks are empty."

For more information about The Ilkley Clean River campaign group visit https://sites.google.com/view/cleanwharfeilkley/home

The group has a monthly newsletter which you can sign up to by emailing: ilkeycleanriver@gmail.com (note unconventional spelling).