Shrewsbury river tragedies: Countywide safety review is ordered

Shropshire Council has pledged to work with other organisations in a countywide safety review of the River Severn.

Greyfriars Bridge, Shrewsbury where the body of Nathan Fleetwood was discovered
Greyfriars Bridge, Shrewsbury where the body of Nathan Fleetwood was discovered

Councillors want to ensure that all existing safety measures and equipment are in good order, to improve CCTV coverage and lighting in areas of risk and consider where more barriers may be necessary.

The move comes as Shrewsbury is still reeling from recent deaths of two young men in the Severn and the rescue of two others.

In recent weeks, two people have died and three people have been rescued after falling in the river in Shrewsbury. Popular Shrewsbury men Toby Jones, 31, and Nathan Fleetwood, 21, sadly died. Father-of-one Dan Walker was heroically rescued, and another man was saved thanks to a member of the Shrewsbury Canoe Hire team , while a casualty was rescued from the river in the Castlefields area.

Nathan Fleetwood died after going missing following a night out.

In recent weeks, two people have died and three people have been rescued after falling in the river in Shrewsbury. Popular Shrewsbury men Toby Jones, 31, and Nathan Fleetwood, 21, sadly died. Father-of-one Dan Walker was heroically rescued, and another man was saved thanks to a member of the Shrewsbury Canoe Hire team , while a casualty was rescued from the river in the Castlefields area.

A motion to Thursday's full council meeting from Councillor David Vasmer called for the erection of fencing at the edge of paths alongside major rivers in the county where there is no fencing at the moment.

"I cycle along the river and in parts is can be frightening," said Councillor Vasmer.

"People can't understand why nothing is being done."

He said the dangers of rivers were not always understood by the public.

Toby Jones died after being pulled from the river by firefighters at Victoria Quay

However, the idea was rejected with instead an amendment from Councillor Alan Mosley gaining favour with the council.

Councillor Mosley said barriers in the wrong place could hinder river rescue operations and instead there should be consideration of where additional appropriate barriers may be necessary to improve safety in risk-assessed locations.

The amendment, carried by the council, also agreed to work with stakeholders to produce promotional and learning material regarding risk and river safety as well as floodwater and ensure it is prominently displayed in relevant premises.

The council is also to call a meeting of the strategic licensing committee to clarify the obligations on liquor licensees and work with the police to ensure that the responsibilities are exercised, including giving advice to vulnerable people on leaving such premises.

It will also work with others to see whether greater surveillance can be organised in areas of risk.

The River Severn in Shrewsbury

Councillor Mosley said he wanted a progress report to cabinet on June 8.

Councillor Dean Carroll, cabinet member with responsibility for river safety, said Shropshire Council and its Team Shrewsbury partners – including West Mercia Police, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service – had worked together for many years to monitor and improve river safety in Shrewsbury.

“Team Shrewsbury has met to discuss the ways in which the real risks of the river can be better communicated to residents and visitors, especially those enjoying nights out in town, and choosing to walk home beside the river," he said.

"This has been a continued focus for a number of years now.

“The council with partners is commissioning a further review of safety along the river in Shrewsbury, following on from detailed reviews carried out in past years, which saw the addition of railings where footpaths join the river path, improved lighting, extra grab chains, lifebuoys and throwlines installed along the river path.

“This review will highlight any changes to the riverbank, any new options to consider, and take into account the growth of the night-time economy in Shrewsbury in recent years, to identify the most effective ways by which we could improve safety further.

“Regular checks take place of lifebuoys and throwline boards, and provisions are in place to close barriers in times of flood."

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has an ongoing programme of throwline training for the street pastors, door staff from town centre pubs and Shrewsbury Town Council staff, while West Mercia Police officers are also throwline trained and carry water safety equipment.

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