River Wey life belt dispute ‘putting lives at risk’, says Normandy resident

September 21, 2018
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A Normandy resident has accused Guildford Borough Council and the National Trust of “putting lives at risk” by not replacing life belts along the River Wey in Guildford town centre.

Liz Oliver said the life belts by Bedford Wharf have been missing for more than two years, but neither the National Trust, which owns the towpath, nor the council will take responsibility for replacing them.

Then, on September 11, she was told in an email from deputy council leader Matt Furniss that the posts that had held the life belts would be removed “to prevent any further confusion on this matter”, a decision which she said left her “spitting feathers”.

She said: “I’m horrified that they are prepared to put lives at risk rather than put life belts on [the posts].”

Liz Oliver, of Normandy, said the section of the River Wey through Guildford was “dangerous” and said the decision not to replace the life belts “put lives at risk”
(Image: Grahame Larter/Surrey Advertiser)

Guildford Borough Council claims it is up to the National Trust, as the owner of the towpath, to provide lifesaving equipment – although this is not mandatory.

But Mark Walker, the National Trust’s head lengthsman for the River Wey, said the trust had owned the stretch of river since 1964 and in that time had never provided life belts.

He said: “There are sections of the towpath through Guildford town centre that are managed by Guildford Borough Council.

“Life belts have been provided by Guildford Borough Council in the town centre but sadly these are often vandalised and thrown in the river.”

However, in his email to Ms Oliver, Cllr Furniss said the council had no record of who installed the life belts, although the council “has traditionally checked them”.

Ms Oliver said the stretch of water was “a particularly dangerous bit of river bank” and that safety equipment could be purchased relatively cheaply.

An online search found a pair of brand new life belts and rescue lines can be bought for as little as £100.

A spokesman for Surrey Search and Rescue said the organisation was “hopeful that a solution is found soon.

“The River Wey is very popular and has many people living close to its banks. Basic water rescue equipment that is in place at strategic locations and well maintained, is vital to ensuring river accidents don’t cost lives.”

A spokesman for Guildford Borough Council said: “The council did not install the lifebuoys in the Bedford Wharf area, but we inspect them and another five along the River Wey. These are sadly often vandalised.

“We also periodically review our sites, and the watercourses within them, to assess any potential risk and any necessary lifesaving measures.

“We take into account any risks present, the effectiveness of the equipment in saving life and the latest guidance available, when considering whether it is appropriate to remove, change or add equipment. We will be undertaking a review in the next six months.

“We echo the same message as the National trust and urge everyone to be careful near waterways. We also ask that people do not thoughtlessly damage any safety equipment on the river banks or elsewhere in our borough.”

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/river-wey-national-trust-guildford-15161909


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