Shrewsbury river safety review recommends 'Amsterdam-style' urinals around river

A highly-anticipated report into river safety in Shrewsbury has made 23 recommendations to be considered by councillors, including 'Amsterdam-style' urinals near the River Severn.

The River Severn in Shrewsbury
The River Severn in Shrewsbury

The review into safety around the Severn in Shrewsbury was commissioned after a number of tragedies in the town earlier this year.

Two men, Nathan Fleetwood and Toby Jones, died in the river in the space of a few days in March and April, and another man, Dan Walker, was left with serious injuries after being rescued from the water.

Among the recommendations in this week's report are Amsterdam-style riverside urinals to try and prevent intoxicated men falling into the Severn, more ladders out of the water to provide an escape route for when people do fall in, and public safety campaigns.

Jane Trethewey, assistant director for homes and communities at Shropshire Council, said: "We have not waited for the report, we are enacting a number of measures. There has been a great deal of work carried out up to date.

"This includes support for pubs, clubs and bars and support for people who become unwell."

Report authors have identified one issue to be men who stop to urinate in the river after a night out and have looked at the example of other towns and cities to see how they have dealt with it.

The report authors say: "Open air urinals could be installed to reduce the likelihood of men using the river as a place to urinate during evenings and particularly on nights out.

"These have been used in cities such as Manchester and Chester to alleviate wider issues of urination during the night-time economy. Such facilities are publicly prone to criticism due to their perceived unsightliness, however there are solutions such as eco-urinals used in Amsterdam (GreenPee16) and telescopic ones adopted in London (UriLift17)."

They add: "Installation of such facilities may raise additional concerns with regards to hand washing provision and lack of alternative provision for women, however these urinals are posed as an alternative to behaviour which is already happening and targeted at men as the high-risk group."

The report recommends the provision of toilet facilities could be facilitated as part of the provision for a safe space in town, through the Safer Streets funding.

It could also be combined with a new campaign within night-time venues to ‘Go Before You Go’.

Officers behind the report say that there would have to be a full public consultation before any such toilet facilities were installed. They are "acutely" aware of the need to balance the issues which include Shrewsbury's attractiveness to tourists.

The report says in regard to Amsterdam that: "It was reported in the local daily De Telegraaf in 2012 that between 2009 and 2011, 50 people drowned in the canals of Amsterdam accidentally.

"It was claimed that ‘the vast majority of them involved men, and according to the newspaper ostensibly most of them were drunk when they fell in while trying to pee into a canal’.

"The Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool reported in 2016 that drowning victims are sometimes found with their fly still undone.

"It was reported that in May 2018 a 21-year-old British tourist died after falling into one of the city’s canals whilst urinating. According to witness reports he lost his balance and fell into the water.

"Whilst a special diving team managed to pull the man out of the water, he died a short time after arrival at hospital."

The Shrewsbury School Boat Clubhouse

A Water Safety Action Group is being set up to make river safety a long-term commitment.

The report is due to be presented to a meeting of Shrewsbury Town Council next Monday and at a meeting of Shropshire Council's cabinet later this month.

But the report points out that there is a limit on the amount that can be done. Putting fences along the whole of the river is not among the recommendations.

Report authors at consultants WSP say: "A certain level of risk is acceptable, and it is expected that safety measures will be applied ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’.

"In other words, practicable measures have to be technically feasible, and costs in time, money and effort are reasonable."

They are recommending continuing public education campaigns to encourage people to take responsibility for their own actions.

It adds: "Users of waterways are expected to share the responsibility for their safe use by not ignoring hazards, abusing facilities or equipment, or exercising ill-judgement."

The Countryside Act is also a consideration.

The report says: "The Countryside Act (1968) requires that when exercising any functions relating to land, there shall be “due regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside”.

"As this requirement may seem to be at odds with the reduction of risk to safety so far as is reasonably practicable, it will mean that when specifying control measures care should be taken such that the overriding natural beauty of the countryside is conserved."

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