FEARS have been raised about pollution of a beck in the district with sediment which could damage local wildlife.

A walker spotted a "brown sluggish horrible stream" at Gill Beck in Hawksworth near Guiseley late last week, and was so concerned he contacted the Environment Agency.

His fears have been backed up by the Aire Rivers Trust and pollution hunter Robert Hellawell, who described the issue.

"I have observed that the bed of the beck is covered with fine sediment right down to the confluence with the Aire at Esholt.

"This sedimentation gets worse and worse the closer one gets to the site.

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"The filling of the gaps between the natural gravels causes habitat loss, the bugs no longer have a home.

"The sediment suffocates the bed of the river and can choke eggs, nymphs and larvae, making a once healthy, productive stream barren. "This is particularly detrimental when the weather is dry and the flow of water is low. The sediment is not carried away as it would be naturally after heavy rain for instance. Invertebrate species affected include mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies and freshwater shrimp. "They are vital to the aquatic food chain, that fish such as stone loach, bullhead and brown trout feed on as well as bird species such as dipper and grey wagtail. Other birds in turn will eat the fishes such as Herons and kingfishers."

Geoff Shaw-Champion said he was a regular walker along Gill Beck and spotted a digger being used as part of work being carried out at Moor Valley Leisure Park.

"I enjoy the woodlands and the gurgling brook. I contacted the EA when I was confronted by a brown sluggish horrible stream."

He added: "I would love that the fallout from this event creates a firm desire locally, to provide a long term plan for Gill Beck Valley so that it becomes a healthy habitat for a biodiverse flora and fauna. This will require the cooperation of Moor Valley Leisure and the farms upstream."

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Barney Lerner, chairman of Friends of Bradford's Becks added: "Careless use of an excavator has caused significant sediment pollution of Gill Beck, one of the least polluted Becks in the Bradford area. It will have damaged the invertebrate population, which will in turn harm the fish and other wildlife."

The Environment Agency confirmed that they had looked into pollution of the beck following work taking place at the leisure park.

A spokesman said: “A minor pollution event on Friday affected a short stretch of Gill Beck downstream of Moor Valley Leisure Park in Hawksworth. Action was taken by the leisure park to limit the pollution and Environment Agency officers have given advice and guidance to help prevent a recurrence.”

But Mr Hellawell disputed the Environment Agency's description of the issue as a "minor" incident, saying that by the time the Agency's officers had visited the site, work had ceased and the pollution dispersed.

If they had arranged their visit for when the JCB was still working in the river then they would have seen a different picture, he said.

Moor Valley Leisure Park did not wish to comment when contacted by the Telegraph & Argus.