AN ILKLEY councillor who this week said he could not support an application for bathing water status for the River Wharfe has called for a change to the law to ban sewage discharges into rivers.

DEFRA is currently consulting on the application which was made by the Ilkley Clean River Group in a bid to clean up the river which is regularly polluted by raw sewage. If the application is successful it would be first river in the UK to achieve such a status.

Councillor Kyle Green (Con, Ilkley), along with fellow Conservative councillor Mike Gibbons and Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ind,Ilkley) this week issued a statement which concluded: "Our judgement is not to support the application for bathing water status." Adding: "We need to consider safety first."

Since issuing the statement Cllr Green says he had been asked by a number of residents and the Ilkley Clean River Group what he would propose as an alternative to the bathing status application to stop sewage being discharged in the River Wharfe.

He said: "This is an important question as I absolutely believe the discharge of raw sewage must be stopped but in doing so I do not want to see existing issues exacerbated or the promotion of swimming in an area where there are serious risks. From my own visits to the ‘swing’ bridge with West Yorkshire Police I have seen people dangerously jump off the bridge, in some cases under the influence of illegal substances.

"To try to mitigate these risks facilities would have to be in place to prevent anti social behaviour, lifeguards, suitable parking places, toilets and much more. Having written around one month ago to Bradford Council highlighting these concerns and asking them to highlight how they would fund and manage these facilities, so far I have had no response.

"I did the same with Ilkley Town Council who have replied and suggested they are currently unwilling to bring back fit for purpose toilets in the appropriate area and I do not believe they have sufficient budget nor powers to bring other facilities to the required level.

"So, what is the answer? Let us not create a world of unintended consequences where bathing status and cleaning up the river become linked - let us lobby, work towards and support a law banning the discharge of raw sewage.

"Fortunately a Conservative MP is already doing this. I implore everyone who wants to see all of England’s (and hopefully the rest of the the United Kingdom’s) rivers cleaned up to support this bid and work to persuade the government to back this private members bill and make it law.

"Not only would this be quicker than bathing status but it would show the UK as a world leader on a vital environmental issue.

"I personally will be looking to propose a motion at the next full Bradford Council session to ask the council to write in support of this."

* South Shropshire MP Philip Dunne has used his opportunity of a Private Members Bill to propose a change in the law that would improve the water quality of rivers and watercourses in Britain.

Mr Dunne’s Bill will seek to place a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters.