An inquiry focusing on “protecting, preserving and promoting the River Itchen in Southampton” holds its fifth meeting this month, which will look on how more people can enjoy the river.
As reported, the series of meetings forms part of a Southampton City Council scrutiny inquiry.
Scrutiny panels choose a topic each year to look at in detail, in the hope of improving outcomes for the city.
The next session of this year’s inquiry, on February 16, will be considering “how more people can enjoy the river, with a focus on public access to the waterfront and recreational activity on and in the river”.
The inquiry comes at a time when there are concerns about water quality, flooding and waterside access.
February’s session is expected to hear from a range of recreational groups that use the river, with James Hinves, club support manager at British Canoeing, invited to provide an overview of the recreational use of the River Itchen in Southampton, and some of the challenges highlighted by groups.
Meanwhile Lindsay McCulloch, Southampton City Council’s natural environment manager, has been asked to give an overview of river access points, public open spaces, riverside paths, public hards and areas for potential future access.
And the Southampton Common & Parks Protection Society has been asked to reflect on the importance of access to the river and “aspirations” for improved and extended riverside paths.
Locked gate at the entrance to river walk off Cobden Bridge by the McCarthy Stone development which opened in 2019. Taken 13/9/21.
Many organisations that use the Itchen have already contributed evidence, including the Friends of Riverside Park, the Friends of Chessel Bay, St Denys Boat Club, Kingfisher Swimmers, Southampton Water Activity Centre & Woodmill Activity Centre among various others.
In their evidence, St Denys Boat Club said that it had been “great to see ABP's clean-up of derelict boats on the river”, but added their most common challenge, “in persuading new sailors or kayakers out on the water is persuading them that the river is safe and clean”.
The club said it wanted to see waterside access improved, as Southampton “has the lowest level of waterside access to its rivers of any city or town in the UK”, and the club encouraged “continued pressure on Southern water to invest in sewerage works on the river to improve water quality”.
Kingfisher Swimmers described themselves as “a warm and caring community of 'strangers'” who have come together with the common interest and the “love to swim in 'Our River'”.
In their evidence they echoed concerns over water quality, and listed the lack of toilets in the whole of Riverside Park as a key concern.
Concluding for Kingfisher Swimmers, Julie Marsh wrote: “Can I also thank you in advance for any improvements to the river and park that will come as a result of this consultation. I hope it is not just a tick box exercise.”
Meeting paperwork, including links to the reports from various groups of river users, is here.
The inquiry session is due to take place at the Civic Centre from 5.30pm on Thursday, February 16. It will also be streamed.