A litter-strewn section of the River Wear is set to be cleared of debris after a local campaign.

Durham County Council will start work this month to remove the plastic, bottles and food wrappers from the waterway after the authority was given permission by Natural England.

Dead fish and birds, traffic cones, litter and bicycle wheels have all been seen floating in the river by residents and tourists despite the council conducting daily litter picks along the river. 

Around 42 tonnes of material was removed last year and the council has created an annual budget to carry out material removal. A report commissioned by the authority confirmed that work costing around £1.5million is required.

The Northern Echo led a campaign alongside the city’s Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy and residents to clean the river, which had become a blight on the picturesque landscape.

But a local councillor in charge of neighbourhood services across the county launched a scathing attack, urging the Labour MP to stop misleading the public and to support and recognise work done by council staff.

Read more: Mary Kelly Foy MP and councillor in fight over litter in River Wear

Permission to grant the works was required due to the presence of an otter using the weir.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Mark Wilkes is one of many local volunteers who have cleaned the River Wear of litterCllr Mark Wilkes is one of many local volunteers who have cleaned the River Wear of litter (Image: The Northern Echo)

Councillor Mark Wilkes, the council’s portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: "A failure to carry out regular maintenance work over many decades means that the weir has been extensively damaged.

“We are looking at somewhere in the region of £1.5 million of work being required. Up to £500,000 of this is potentially urgent work and we are now working on funding for this important project."

The council is now programming clearance work using specialist teams.

Staff will start the work by constructing a resting area for the otter. This will be followed by the removal of all debris to enable a further review the overall condition of the weir.

The Northern Echo:

Cllr Wilkes added: "We are engaging with consultants to provide a detailed design that will future protect the weir as we obtain the relevant funding.

“Having that unobstructed access to the structure of the weirs will assist in inspecting the construction of the structure to enable funding to be allocated for their longer-term repair.

“Once completed, the weir will also be a more appealing sight to residents and visitors alike.”

The Northern Echo: Duckweed and litter in the river have become a blight on the landscape Duckweed and litter in the river have become a blight on the landscape (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Responding to the news of the clean up, Ms Foy MP said: "It will be welcome news for residents, environmental groups and volunteers who have contacted me to express their discontent with the state of the River Wear that this work will now take place.

"Sadly, years of relentless deep budget cuts to local authorities and agencies by Liberal Democrat and Conservative Governments have imperilled the cleanliness and health of our waterways.

"The public were right to voice their concern and apply this pressure - and I am hopeful that after raising this issue repeatedly with the Council, Government, Environment Agency and Natural England for the last twelve months that work will soon take place.

"I look forward to working cooperatively with the Local Authority to ensure Durham can access any future funding opportunities or shape legal protections, to preserve our beautiful riverscape for generations to come.”


Read next: 

Pyridine could have caused mass North East sea life deaths

Skull found on Saddleworth Moor in search for last victim of Moors Murders

County Durham corner shop giving lunches away for 1p to help struggling families