PLANS to safeguard a stretch of river in Leeds where several people have drowned are desperately needed, according to waterway experts.
The treacherous waters of the city centre River Aire have claimed several lives in recent years, and now there are calls for a multi-agency approach to make footpaths and banks as safe as possible.
But various owners of riverside land makes the issue complicated, and erecting railings or safety barriers along the river, may not be the answer.
British Waterways health and safety advisor Peter Wade said the issue was complicated because a range of owners were responsible for riverside land.
Mr Wade said: “Water safety is a complicated issue across the country and is subject to much discussion.
“Any future approach to river safety in Leeds should be multi-agency and include a range of organisations, landowners and bars to focus on the complexity of the issues and circumstances leading to these tragic incidents.”
Adam Moore, owner of the Factory nightclub, at Water Lane, Leeds, where the latest river victim Robert Stoner, 30, was last seen alive, said “something” needed to be done.
He added: “The fence at the back of the Factory club is broken and beyond it is a steep drop into a fast flowing beck.
“The water is really fast. We cannot find out who owns the fence, it isn’t the council or British Waterways.
“I back calls for safety improvements along the riverside, and it does need a joint approach.”
A waterside memorial service was held in memory of warehouseman and driver Mr Stoner, of Swarcliffe, whose body was found last Wednesday after a four day search.
Student Matthew Wilcox, 19, was found in the River Aire close to The Calls, last March and student Gavin Terry, 19, was found in River Aire, near Skelton Grange in March, 2008.
Internet petitions signed by thousands of people are calling for safety improvements.
Leeds City Council is backing calls for a multi-agency approach.
Rachel Clunas, of Aire Action Leeds, said: “Increasing safety along the waterfront in Leeds is complex because there are many different landowners and managers who have responsibility.
“Risk assessment is needed because although waterside railings do provide some safety at certain points; they can also hinder rescues from water or access.”