Tories and Lib Dems clash over River Nidd water quality
Last updated Jan 14, 2024
Cllr Hannah Gostlow and Andrew Jones MP

Conservative MP Andrew Jones has clashed with Liberal Democrat politicians over water quality in the River Nidd.

The state of the Nidd is likely to be one of the key election issues in Harrogate and Knaresborough in the year ahead, with both parties focusing heavily on it. The Stray Ferret has been following developments — you can read a recent summary here.

Mr Jones, the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, was questioned on the subject when he appeared before a Liberal Democrat-controlled committee of local councillors on Friday.

Mr Jones has been leading a campaign to achieve bathing water status on the Nidd at Knaresborough Lido, which would oblige the Environment Agency to monitor water quality along the river.

Hannah Gostlow, a Liberal Democrat who represents Knaresborough East on North Yorkshire Council, asked Mr Jones when it would be safe to swim in the Nidd.

Mr Jones said the government was expected to adjudicate on the bathing water status application by late spring or early summer.

He added:

“It isn’t reasonable to say it’s not safe to swim in the River Nidd because the whole point about the bathing water status is it’s measuring people actually already swimming in the Nidd. People like swimming in the Nidd. This about helping them do that.

“So I think the question is slightly loaded and slightly wrong. The work to improve water quality is a complex piece of work which will require prolonged investment — some changes in agricultural practice as well.”

Cllr Gostlow replied by saying she asked the question because an Environment Agency report in December 2023 gave ‘poor’ water quality status to the only three rivers in England to hold a distinct classification for swimming,  meaning they were unfit for swimming.

Those waterways are the River Wharfe at Ilkley, Wolvercote Mill Stream in Oxfordshire, and the Deben estuary at Waldringfield —

After the meeting, Cllr Gostlow accused Mr Jones of failing to answer the question on when it will be safe to swim in the Nidd. She added:

“Every summer we have countless children and adults who get sick as a result of swimming in the Nidd. If it was already safe to do so then there wouldn’t be a need to concerted effort and a community campaign to improve water quality.”

Mr Jones (right) sitting alongside an aide at last week’s meeting.

Mr Jones told the Harrogate and Knaresborough area constituency committee, which advises North Yorkshire Council on local issues, the bathing water status application had been “a hugely successful piece of work”.

He said agricultural run off that is the largest cause of pollution in rivers and the Nidd’s mining past also caused issues.

He added:

“I look at the quality issue in a very positive way This is the first government ever to have tackled water quality with an action plan.

“A key thing is by the end of last year we had 100% of the storm overflows in our country monitored for the first time.

“And it was a big change because it was only in 2016 that it was 6% monitoring so we now can quantify the scale of the problem and we will be able therefore to direct where investment will be going to make the quickest biggest difference.”

He said monitoring “has changed the entire national debate” and would enable everyone shortly to be able to see live data on water quality.

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