Ilkley River Wharfe is first in England to become bathing site

Image caption,
The River Wharfe in Ilkley is a popular swimming and paddling site

A river in West Yorkshire is to become the first in England to be designated a bathing site.

A stretch of the River Wharfe in Ilkley will have its pollution levels monitored by the Environment Agency to ensure it is safe for swimming.

The move follows a campaign by local residents who said they had seen "human solid waste" on the river bank.

Becky Malby, from the Ilkley Clean River Group, said she was "absolutely over the moon" at the news.

Ms Malby said the group had been campaigning over pollution levels for over two years after human sewage was seen where people were "picnicking and playing".

She said she was "delighted" the designated bathing area encompassed the nearby sewage treatment works.

"That is going to have to trigger a major clean-up of the system," she added.

From 2021, samples will be taken from the popular swimming and paddling spot between May and September.

If bacteria levels are too high then action will be taken to reduce pollution.

Bathing water sites on the coast and on certain lakes have been monitored by the Environment Agency since the 1990s and have seen a significant improvement in water quality.

There are currently 12 inland bathing waters in England - all lakes.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: "Unfortunately, we all know the water quality won't change overnight. It will take time and we need farmers and businesses to commit to achieve the necessary improvements."

The announcement came as Yorkshire Water confirmed a new multi-agency partnership had been formed to improve water quality in the River Wharfe.

It plans to reduce storm overflow discharges by 20% and increase the use of smart tech to predict and prevent pollution incidents.

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