Friends draw up plan to get part of Bradford Beck flowing more naturally again (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Friends draw up plan to get part of Bradford Beck flowing more naturally again
A Bradford river once deemed the filthiest in England could become attractive and healthy again, according to a report published today.
The final report of the Bradford Beck Project lays out ambitious plans to clean up and improve the river, allowing wildlife to thrive and making it an asset to the city.
The project – one of 25 pilot schemes looking at new ways of managing and improving rivers – tested the Beck’s water quality and mapped its route through the city to identify how and where the cleanliness and the attractiveness of the watercourse for people and wildlife could be improved.
Led by the Aire Rivers Trust, with the support of the University of Sheffield’s faculty of engineering, the project has brought together local people and key organisations, including the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, Bradford Council and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
David Lerner, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Sheffield, said water quality in the beck was not as bad as first imagined, although he conceded that pollution problems still remain.
“Changes in the industry in the city over recent years have reduced pollution levels in the Beck, though it could still be improved,” said Prof Lerner, who tested more than 70 samples from the Beck.
“Our tests showed that there are some significant discharges of sewage into the river, most likely from wrongly connected or badly operating sewers. Some industrial sites are also allowing pollutants to drain into the beck.
“However, these are all problems which could be easily rectified, making the restoration of Bradford Beck a very achievable goal.”
The report lays out the challenge of improving the ecology of the Beck, turning it from a drainage culvert back into a natural river which can support wildlife.
It is currently classed as ‘poor ecological quality’ under the Water Framework Directive.
Of the 11km of the beck which flows through the city, the majority is either hidden underground or forced to run through deep artificial culverts.
Many of these date back to the 19th century, when Bradford Beck was so polluted it was deemed the filthiest river in England, despite the city being, at the time, the country’s richest.
The culverts were constructed to hide the sight and smells of the river from Bradford’s burgeoning population.
As part of the project, a feasibility study was conducted on how to naturalise the stretch that runs from the city centre out to Shipley.
“Much of this stretch of the river runs in a straight line in a brick culvert between two high stone walls, and the speed of the water makes it impossible for wildlife to get established,” said Prof Lerner, who is also a member of the Aire Rivers Trust.
“By taking down one of the walls and creating a natural river bed and river bank, with twists and turns and pools which slow down the water, Bradford Beck could start to support wildlife, such as trout and kingfishers, and also be visible and accessible for people to enjoy.”
Other measures highlighted in the report include setting up nature trails, foot and cycle paths and running educational activities to ensure Bradfordians can enjoy the river.
The report also suggests that sections of the river which have to remain underground could be marked by paving, panels, or with glass roofs, to help people be aware of Bradford Beck as an integral part of the city.
To encourage local involvement, Aire Rivers Trust has already established a Friends of Bradford Beck group and is creating a website at bradford-beck.org to inform people about the river and the plans for it.
The report also calls on all those involved in the city’s water system to take action to ensure the plan is put into practice.
This includes regular monitoring of water quality, dealing with misconnected sewers and other drainage issues, and for those who own land bordering the river to take full responsibility for keeping it clean and pollutant free.
Kevin Sunderland, chairman of the Aire Rivers Trust, said: “The report identifies some really concrete measures that can be taken to restore Bradford Beck to be an asset to the city.
“Some of these are already underway, but we now need all parties – particularly the Council, the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water – to work with us to make this vision a reality.”
A spokesman for the Friends of Bradford Beck said the project would initially have no costs as it is being organised and run by volunteers, as well as working with existing resources.
“The Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and Bradford Council would be asked to contribute in-kind and other practical support to undertake projects such as litter picks,” the spokesman added.
“The group would need to obtain funding for any larger projects, perhaps from the National Lottery or similar charitable funds.”
Bradford Beck starts as a collection of tiny tributaries in the west of the city which merge into one waterway that flows eastwards towards the city centre, gathering momentum and size.
When in the city centre in its underground channel, it takes a northerly turn towards Shipley through the Bradford valley.
From Cemetery Road downstream, the waterway is culverted and underground, hidden behind walls, or deep in an artificial canyon.
A project spokesman said: “Rivers that are lost are just drains that cannot be enjoyed or be assets to the city.
“Our vision is of Bradford Beck and its tributaries being a visible part of Bradford, raising awareness, enabling contact and helping to develop a bluer, greener city.”