'Heartfelt thank you' to bereaved families taking part in review to help make river safer

Grieving families whose loved ones died in Shrewsbury river tragedies have been praised for their commitment to making sure such incidents never happen again.

Boards along the River Severn in Shrewsbury
Boards along the River Severn in Shrewsbury

Families of some of the 14 people who have died in River Severn incidents in the county town over the last 10 years have been telling their stories to consultants who have come up with 23 recommendations to address safety concerns by the river.

Helen Ball, town clerk at Shrewsbury Town Council, said: "The loss of family members is a tragic thing for them and our heart goes out to them.

"They have put the effort in to try to ensure that no-one has to go through what they have been through. We have got to commend them that in their grief they have looked on their pain in a positive way to make a difference."

Jane Trethewey, Shropshire Council's assistant director for homes and communities, was similarly full of praise for the involvement of families in highlighting the risks to life of the river.

"Every time these kinds of issues are highlighted it helps to keep it in the public eye.

"I would like to thank family members for their involvement, we truly appreciate that," she said.

The report looks at reasons for river deaths and makes a total of 23 recommendations. These include more ladders into the river to give people an escape route and better markings to show where the edge of the river is.

The last public safety risk assessment was carried out by Mouchel and published in October 2010.

The report says: "A change of habits has been observed spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in increased footfall alongside the river.

"With the health and environmental benefits which arise from active travel, the River Severn corridor is a valuable and unique asset and the risks which arise from the proximity of people next to open water will need to be balanced and addressed accordingly."

This report has been compiled drawing from the local knowledge and expertise of a number of interested parties including Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), Shrewsbury Town Council, Pengwern Boat Club, Shrewsbury BID, and Shropshire Council CCTV surveillance team.

Specialist advice within WSP has been drawn upon with regards to water risk management, behavioural design, street lighting and bridge engineering.

The report authors say: "We wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to the bereaved family members who gave their time to share their experiences in the hope that others will not have to suffer the pain and loss that they have endured."

This report highlights the current safety measures in place on the towpaths adjacent to the River Severn in Shrewsbury from the Welsh bridge, downstream to the weir and provides recommendations for improvement, to help reduce risks and mitigate further incidents in the river in this area.

Recommendations are due to be discussed by Shrewsbury Town Councillors on Monday and at a meeting of Shropshire Council's cabinet on December 14.

Recommendations include:

  • The provision of toilet facilities, possibly riverside urinals in the Amsterdam style and a campaign in night time venues to ‘Go Before You go’ to stop men from the risks of urinating in the river.

  • Edge delineation at Water Lane and between Greyfriars Bridge and the weir.

  • It is recommended that barriers with below-standard heights are replaced. Due to the cost of his option, it would be considered a medium-term action.

  • A review is proposed of the existing lighting installations and proposed lighting for currently unlit areas where it is deemed to be a requirement.

  • It is recommended that the plans for the new Riverside Development are scrutinised to ensure that river safety is addressed.

  • It is recommended that a Water Safety Action Group is set up.

  • It is recommended that the existing signage is reviewed, an action which could be carried out by Water Safety Action Group.

  • It is recommended that additional surveillance is considered to cover the area between Castle Walk bridge and the weir.

  • It is recommended that general information boards are considered. This could be a mediumterm action.

  • It is recommended that specific signage is considered for Kingsland Bridge and Porthill Bridge to warn against shallow water.

  • Due to the high risk posed by the absence of suitable egress points for sections along the river, the provision of ladders should be implemented "as soon as reasonably practicable".

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