Dozens of protesters marched through the centre of York today (Saturday, February 10) calling for action against pollution in the River Ouse.

The protesters – many members of Extinction Rebellion York – held banners calling for Yorkshire Water to act and reduce the amount of raw sewage in the river.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said the company is investing £180 million by April 2050 to limit the amount of flood water entering rivers after storms.

Protesters were due to sail down the Ouse from Lendal Bridge to Tower Gardens.

Gazette & Herald: Protesters march along Lendal BridgeProtesters march along Lendal Bridge (Image: Dylan Connell)

But flooding meant they had to go by foot.

Police officers escorted the group and stopped traffic to let them pass.

Gazette & Herald: Extinction Rebellion members at the start of the march outside York City Rowing ClubExtinction Rebellion members at the start of the march outside York City Rowing Club (Image: Dylan Connell)

Former City of York Council transport boss Andy D'Agorne was among those protesting.

“I’m here today to protest about the state of our rivers and the lack of investment from private water companies, which means that we still have the situation of raw sewage coming into our water when we have storms like we regularly get in York,” he told The Press.

“It’s a regular problem across the city but particularly in areas where there’s limited capacity for storm run off or for the sewers themselves.”

Gazette & Herald: Former City of York Council transport boss Andy D'Agorne during the marchFormer City of York Council transport boss Andy D'Agorne during the march (Image: Dylan Connell)

On whether Yorkshire Water is doing enough to address the issue, Mr D’Agorne said: “I don’t think so. I’m aware that it’s not something that can be sorted overnight.

“On a national level we have privatised water companies which, if we’re lucky, get fined for the impact they have on the rivers but then that just comes out of our water charges.

“There’s no real pressure on them to address the investment, to have 21st century solutions.”

'You should be able to enjoy the river without becoming ill' - protester

Laura Autumn Cox, Extinction Rebellion York member, was leading the protest and told The Press: “It’s clear from the colour of the river that it’s polluted with raw sewage.

“A dirty river isn’t good for the life trying to survive in it.”

Gazette & Herald: Laura Autumn Cox, XR York member, leading the march in North StreetLaura Autumn Cox, XR York member, leading the march in North Street (Image: Dylan Connell)

On Yorkshire Water’s planned investment, she said: “That’s a fantastic start and I’m glad they acknowledge it but they’re not the only culprit.”

Protesters docked costumes of the river and cleaners to highlight the issue.

Gazette & Herald: Police officers stop traffic in Tower Street for the protestPolice officers stop traffic in Tower Street for the protest (Image: Dylan Connell)

Ruth Jennaway was at the march and told The Press: “The pollution (in the Ouse) is close to my heart because I want everyone to be able to enjoy the river.

“You should be able to enjoy the river without becoming ill.”

Yorkshire Water investing £180m by April 2050 to address storm overflows

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “Storm overflows operate to protect homes and businesses from flooding and did discharge to the Ouse during the recent storms.

“Flood waters come from a number of different sources including but not limited to; rivers, sewers, agricultural run-off, highways run-off and drains.

Gazette & Herald: The River Ouse below Lendal BridgeThe River Ouse below Lendal Bridge (Image: Dylan Connell)

“We know the operation of storm overflows is an issue our customers care passionately about and we are investing £180 million by April 2025 to begin reducing their operation across the region, including projects in York at Fishergate, which has been completed, and Coney Street in the coming months.

“Additionally, we have submitted plans to Ofwat for approval outlining a £1.3 billion investment to reduce storm overflow discharges between 2025 and 2030.”