River Irwell - History - 20th Century - 1980s

1980s

In 1980, a scheme for improving a section of the river between Littleton Road and Adelphi Weir in Salford for boating purposes was included in Greater Manchester Policy Committee's capital programme for 1981/82. County Councillors at a recent committee meeting had criticised the condition of the river, with the councillor for the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham calling it "quite revolting and horrible". A spokesperson for the NWWA said that, although the river had a reputation for being polluted, it was getting much better but still had not reached a state where they would be satisfied. She added that tests were being carried out to show the improved cleanliness of the Irwell and that 600 trout had recently been put in the river at Summerseat, near Bury. The proposals were welcomed by both Salford University and Agecroft Rowing Club, with the university stating that they wished to use that section for their boat race. Later that year it was reported that hundreds of trees and shrubs were to be planted along the banks of the Irwell between Broughton and Pomona Dock in a £650,000 "green finger" scheme to "bring the countryside into the heart of industrial Salford". The dossier outlining the scheme, prepared by Salford's Technical Services Officer, emphasised the "bleak character" of the Irwell Valley with "many constructions by the river that are decaying and rotting" and said "the main problems are caused by an excess of ammonia and a high organic content from sewage effluents which discharge into the water upstream." The report recommended that "even more support should be given to the NWWA in their pollution control of the River Irwell."

Throughout the 1980s, sightings of fish as far downstream as Manchester city centre were reported in local newspapers. In February 1981 the Manchester Evening News reported that "ten jacksharps, about two inches long" had been spotted by a site manager working on the Mark Addy public house, which was then being built on the disused New Bailey Landing Stage, below New Bailey Street, on the border of Manchester and Salford. Plans for developing the river for recreational use were also coming to fruition as it was reported in 1982 that, over the May bank holiday, the first pleasure cruise on the river in the 20th century would leave from the Mark Addy as part of a three-day experiment to see whether river cruises could be a success. In 1983 over 100 canal and river boats rode the flooded river for the Greater Manchester Waterways Festival, an event aimed at demonstrating how pleasure boating could "transform the bleak waterway in the heart of Manchester". By 1984 two local men felt the waters were clean enough for them to brave a ten mile (16 km) charity fund-raising swim from Clifton to Manchester, although they were warned by a spokesman for the North West Water Authority that the cocktail of effluent and occasional untreated sewage meant that the Irwell was still "a class 4 river – top of the pollution chart". During 1985 the Croal–Irwell Valley local plan was launched, listing 187 proposals for the improvement of the valley and in 1986 the Mersey Basin Campaign was announced. The campaign was to cover a large area, from Rossendale in the north to Crewe in the south, and it was promised that £67m would be made available in the first three years for water- and land-based projects. In September 1987 plans were revealed for a mile-long landscaped walkway in Manchester city centre and developers announced plans to develop three bricked-up railway arches on the side of the river, opposite Manchester Cathedral, into a wine bar and restaurant. In 1988 Manchester's first water bus made its maiden voyage from the New Bailey Landing Stage, then known as the Mark Addy Quay, on a five-mile (8 km) inaugural round trip to Salford Quays By the end of the 1980s ambitious plans had been announced to turn Manchester into a top international tourist centre "mainly based on the derelict areas around the waterways of Manchester, Salford and Trafford – the Irwell, the Irk, the ship canal and the Bridgewater Canal...bringing £500m of investment and 13,000 new jobs over the next 10 years". The Manchester Ship Canal Company also announced a £70 million redevelopment scheme for Pomona Docks in Salford, to include a marina, homes, offices and other commercial developments.

Read more about this topic:  River Irwell, History, 20th Century

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