Date Published: 

Wed, 18/02/2015
River Avon

The multi-agency River Safety Group (encompassing Avon and Somerset Police, Avon Fire and Rescue, Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Environment Agency and the Canal and Rivers Trust) has implemented a number of safety precautions along the River Avon through its action plan. 

This includes previously fitting fencing along a 1 kilometre length of tow path from Green Park to Windsor Bridge Road; maintaining grab lines along the river; installing warning signs at 8 locations between Churchill Bridge and Windsor Bridge; and sharing river safety advice throughout the district’s licensed premises, two universities and City of Bath College.

The multi-agency River Safety Group is keen to emphasise that although the River Avon is a beautiful part of the city, people are reminded of the importance of staying safe around the water, particularly at night time.

Since 2011 the Council has spent in the region of £500,000 on river safety; it plans to spend £150,000 on the river corridor in the next financial year and will be seeking partner contributions to increase that figure.

In 2011 the Council together with Avon and Somerset Police and Avon Fire and Rescue jointly commissioned a report from RoSPA to understand what further safety measures should be implemented along the River Avon in Bath.  One of the main recommendations from that report was the provision of edge protection along a stretch of the river between Windsor Bridge Road and Green Park to prevent people from accidentally entering the water.  In 2012 the Council allocated £140,000 of capital funding to erect fencing along this stretch and this was completed in 2013.  

Since then the Council has invested further funding into edge protection and in 2015 new fencing will be erected between Thimble Mill and Churchill Bridge and on the sloped path leading from Green Park Road.

  • permanent railings leading from Green Park Road down to the towpath have now been installed (this is where Sam Amin entered the water)
  • railings from Widcombe to Churchill Bridge are being installed (contractors on site now) – due to be completed end of March 
  • Ladder repairs will begin at the beginning of April. 

In addition, the Council has submitted flood mitigation plans for Bath Quays Waterside which includes reducing the steepness of the river bank from Churchill Bridge to Midland Bridge to make for a safer river environment. 

We have also been working closely with the Student and Community Partnership - this includes: 

  • Promotional material highlighting the dangers of the river is included in 5,000 bags provided to the new students joining our universities in September
  • On an annual basis, both universities run campaigns on alcohol awareness which includes alerting students to the dangers presented by the River Avon in Bath.  The campaigns emphasise the need for students to ensure that everyone gets home safe after a night out.  
  • Promotional material from the ‘Don’t let river water be your last drink’ campaign, including beer mats, has been distributed by Council officers to licensed premises throughout the Bath and North East Somerset area during the course of enforcement visits.
  • New signage has been erected at eight locations between Churchill Bridge and Windsor Bridge to raise awareness with path users about their own safety when using the river path.  
  • Council Officers and Avon Fire and Rescue are currently supporting students from the City of Bath College on a new personal safety campaign (GotYaBack#) which will be rolled out across all three major educational establishments in March 2015.
  • The Council is working with Avon Fire and Rescue to develop more robust, vandal-proof cabinets for life saving equipment along the River Avon.  A prototype cabinet is under construction and user testing will be taking place in February 2015.

We are also contacting other landowners along the river where there is defective/missing lifesaving equipment on private land to offer advice and make them aware of their responsibilities with respect of the management of this equipment.

As a member of the multi-agency River Safety Group, the Council continually works with its partners to improve safety along the River Avon to ensure that the measures already in place – and those new ones that are being implemented – make it as safe as possible. However, mindless actions such as vandalism and theft hinder the River Safety Group’s efforts to improve safety along the river. Since 2011, the Council has had to replace 55 of its lifebuoys as a result of theft or vandalism (18 in 2011, 19 in 2012, 9 in 2013 and 9 so far this year). In addition, one of the eight warning signs installed earlier this year has been forcibly removed and safety fencing – protecting people from the river’s edge – has been cut to pieces in several locations along the River Avon.

The River Safety Group has taken action to address all of the 2011 RoSPA safety recommendations, as well as taking additional steps to improve river safety locally in the spirit of the recommendations.

The River Safety Group is made up of representatives from Avon and Somerset Police, Avon Fire and Rescue, the Environment Agency, the Canal and Rivers Trust and Bath & North East Somerset Council.  It is also supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). The Group works closely together to deliver safety measures.

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