Ilkley residents came face to face with Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency to press them on their plans to clean up the River Wharfe.

Around 130 local people attended a Town Meeting organised by Ilkley Clean River Group (ICRG).

Plans for an upgrade of the sewage system in Ilkley to stop untreated discharges into the river were discussed, as well as proposals to improve the processes of sewage treatment.

Yorkshire Water was also challenged about reports that bills are going to go up by almost 40 per cent by 2025.

The plans presented will reduce the raw sewage discharges to ten a year which ICRG says is the basic operating requirement, it is not an enhancement that customers should pay more for.

The plans to invest in Ilkley come after five years of campaigning resulting in the town securing Bathing Water status, which in turn created an imperative to clean up the river.

Ilkley’s MP Robbie Moore was present at the meeting, and ICRG called on him to do more to ensure the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) does not take bathing status away from the river when it is reviewed after five years.

Prof Becky Malby of the ICRG said: “Defra has been promising us a review since 2020. We reminded Yorkshire Water of data that shows that Ilkley discharges 86+ Olympic swimming pool's volume of untreated sewage, and we shared the recent Judicial Review that said that all sewage must be treated except in exceptional circumstances.

“Ilkley will be the first town to secure improvements in its sewage system as a result of bathing status, and could be the model for rivers across the country.”

Town Mayor Karl Milner called for the improvements to be speeded up and said: “We will help where we can but we will also challenge where we need to.”

Yorkshire Water's business plan is with Ofwat for approval with the results expected in summer 2024 with the view to work starting in 2025.

Robbie Moore MP, who spoke at the meeting, said: “As a Member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in Parliament, I am continuing to press the case for an extension of the five year time limit on Bathing Water Status, and I am glad to see our Committee launching an inquiry into this matter.

"We also need to address the complex and often siloed responsibilities water companies and other agencies hold on water quality matters. This means making sure those who are not meeting their responsibilities to the taxpayer are properly held to account and, in my opinion, working towards a whole system approach to river quality.”