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Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Does the River Aire through Leeds need safety railings?
River Aire
A reflective river Aire as it passes through Leeds

A campaign for better safety measures alongside the River Aire in Leeds city centre, following several recent deaths, has made an impact.

The most recent casualty was Matthew Wilcox. The 19-year-old student went missing after a night out.

Matthew's body was found by police in the river on Friday 5 March 2010, a week after he disappeared.

Since then, a gap in fencing has been closed, near to what is thought to be the scene of the drowning.

Private landowners have closed the half-metre gap in the guard railing near Riverside Court after Leeds City Council wrote to them requesting the work be done.

Cllr Andrew Carter, Leader of Leeds City Council and executive member for development, said:

"We wrote to the landowners asking them to put an appropriate piece of fencing across this gap. Although this is not our land we must ensure public safety.

"We will also be looking at other areas of privately-owned land alongside the river which are accessible to the public to check whether there are any hazards. Our waterfront is a massive asset to the city and it needs to be safe for everyone to use."

It was around this time of year in 2008, that the body of Gavin Terry was pulled from the Aire.

Student Gavin had gone missing in similar circumstances three months earlier.

After Gavin's death his friends and family wanted railings to be put up in the area, even starting an online petition.

Seven people are thought to have died after falling in to this stretch of water in the last three years.

One of the problems has been that it's hard to even work out who owns all the land where riverside barriers might be placed.

Gavin Terry's mother Philomena, who lives in Baildon, recently told BBC Radio Leeds:

"It is really now high time that this preventable tragedy is stopped. I just feel now that everybody is passing the buck. The city council has a responsibility for the safety of students and young people."

Leeds is a city that sometimes feels slightly cut off from the river that runs through it. Although navigation along the river was an important springboard to the city's economy, a Victorian railway embankment acts as a barrier between much of the city centre and the river.

However a growing number of homes, student housing, bars and restaurants are situated near the river so there is a larger number of people moving over, and around, the river. Increasingly the waterfront is being viewed as a leisure amenity for the whole city.

Your views

What, if anything, would you like to see as a safety measure alongside the river?

Email: BBC Leeds with your views leeds@bbc.co.uk

It doesn't matter who owns the land, it doesn't matter who lives next to the river, it doesn't matter how much it costs. Please campaign for Leeds City Council to get railings put up along the stretch of water near the Calls and hopefully no-one else will die. These people are just kids with the rest of their lives ahead of them.
Helen, Leeds

Why ruin the views of the river? I for one enjoy them, I am a student studying at Leeds and have lived in Leeds all my life I have worked down by the river for two years it is a tranquil part of Leeds How come I have been able to understand, being (very) intoxicated or not, the dangers the river brings? You don't have the same problem in Newcastle where the barriers are very similar. I feel for the families and their loss, but adding barriers to a beautiful part of Leeds's heritage would be a major shame for us who enjoy the aesthetic views the river brings.
Dave, Leeds

Having lived in Clarence Dock in my first year at University I am well aware of the lack of barriers on the rivers edge, as I always thought it was absolutely ludicrous that there were none already in place and steered well away from the edge at all times. The path can get busy, and is extremely dark at night and it is not surprising that seven people have died in the past three years from falling into the river. Even a simple waist-high metal railing would prevent people from getting too close to the edge and would go a long way to preventing falls.

Alcohol has been blamed by some as a factor in the death of students falling into the river whilst drunk, but the fact remains that even sober the river would be difficult to climb out of, especially in the dark, and other vulnerable people - children, the elderly, disabled people - could just as easily slip in and be unable to rescue themselves. Even if alcohol is partly to blame, the fact remains that people's lives are still at risk and something should be done.

The death of a young person is always sad. However, erecting barriers will not prevent incidents such as this, and impact severely on the many people who enjoy the waterfront without impedance or incident.

Who in their right mind decided to put student accommodation next to a river/ canal in first place ? Come to Headingley and see how many students are well drunk most nights especially at weekends, but most get home safe, because we have no river running through Headingley. If there was a river or canal up here, then I am sure these incidents would increase.

Leeds should stop looking for who owns parts where Aire runs past to charge fencing to them and look at who is responsible for the water and bill them for fencing wherever it passes.
D. Clay

Ideally all of the current fencing should have some sort of wire mesh to stop people that sit on the barriers from slipping through, I saw several young people doing just that today. We are only talking about maybe a one mile stretch of river edge on both sides but the absolute minimum that needs to be in place is at least some rope or barrier all along the river's edge.
Alex Tyson

As parents we all hope our sons and daughters relish the experience to be had at University. We all know that partying is a big part of uni life and we hope they all remain safe. Whilst railings here may prevent further tragic accidents, I would urge all youngsters to look after their friends. I would hope that my son would not leave a mate to stagger home worse for wear unaccompanied, and I would hope that none of his friends would leave him to get home alone in a similar state. At the end of the day our teenagers are responsible for their own actions, it is not the job of a bouncer, a taxi driver or anyone else to see they get home safely, this is where friends can play such an important part. My advice is most definitely, Everyone look after your friends, as you would like them to look after you. No one should be left to go home alone if they are not 100% in control of themselves. I can only hope that this type of tragedy does not happen again, and I pray my own son remains safe.
A saddened mother of two teenagers

Body in river is missing student
08 Mar 10 |  England
Missing man's body found in river
20 Mar 08 |  West Yorkshire
Mother's fight for river railings
11 Jun 09 |  West Yorkshire


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