THE Ilkley Clean River Group has responded to a call from an Ilkley councillor that the River Wharfe could be cleaned up via new legislation rather than going down the route of Bathing Water Status.

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

Last week Councillor Kyle Green (Con, Ilkley) suggested it would be better to work towards new laws. He urged support for a Private Members Bill which proposes a change in the law to place a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers.

In a statement the Ilkley Clean River Group said: “We are impatient, we have spent two years trying to secure a clean river. At the moment Bathing Status is the best way of securing investment within five years.”

The statement adds: “The Ilkley Clean River Group agrees legal processes are the way forward, and there is existing legislation in place which can be used, but is not being used by the Environment Agency to hold Yorkshire Water to account, moreover the EA says the YW discharges are legal - they are not under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. We advocate for using the existing legislation now, however we haven’t been successful as a town nor have any other towns or groups in the UK in securing a reduction in sewage ‘spills’ using the existing legislation, as the UK is not compliant with it. The legislation is the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive which requires all sewage to be treated under normal conditions. The UK is in breach of this legislation. The private members bill is trying to secure no discharges, but the current European Legislation already provides for that.

“We are supporting the Private Members bill via Robbie Moore. We do believe legislation really matters. We absolutely support a law that bans sewage discharges, it is exactly what we are campaigning for. Our concerns are about how long it will take. Forgive us for being sceptical on the success of the Private Members bill and the length of time it could take.

“There is a new task force that has been set up by Defra, Ofwat and the EA in response to our campaigning, tasked with looking into the Storm Overflow issues. We urge our Council representatives to lobby that group.

“We agree, utilising legislation to prevent raw sewage discharges would be fantastic progress for the rivers in the UK.

“In the meantime we have the promise of designation leading to an upgrade in the sewage system in Ilkley and a reduction in sewage spills in our river, the planning for which would start immediately. It is a fantastic opportunity to clean up our river. If we get it there are rivers all over the country poised for application, leading to a national clean up.”