By Tom Connell
A YORK safety campaigner is gathering signatures on a petition after the deaths of six people in the city’s river since 2014.
Callum McCulloch, co-editor at student online news-site The Tab, has gathered 880 signatures on the petition, which aims to encourage City of York Council to improve safety measures around the River Ouse. Another 220 signatures would mean the issue would have to be discussed by the council.
He believes simple changes can save lives, highlighting areas outside popular bars with nothing but a knee-high chain between a road and the river.
Mr McCulloch said: “From personal experience I know there are really dangerous parts of the river particularly outside Stone Roses and Lowther.”
Paul Blakey founded the Street Angels charity in 2005. The Christian charity’s York team started in 2009 aiming to provide people who are in potentially vulnerable positions in city centres with support.
He believes everything that can be done to stop people getting into the river is already being done.
He said: “There’s an awful lot of things in place to help keep people safe, it comes down to personal responsibility.”
But Mr McCulloch, a third year student at York University, believes river deaths are being blamed wrongly on students and the excessive drinking culture.
He said: “Drinking is not the cause, the river is unsafe, that’s the cause. No-one deserves to go to university and not come back.”
Dick Syms, 75, the chairman of York Street Angels said he has found the council helpful and willing to listen to suggestions. In the three years he has been working in York he claims positive changes have been made.
He said: “We have made suggestions they increase CCTV along the river banks, improve lighting and put ladders in the Foss so people are able to climb out of the river, which they have done.”
Despite the efforts from The Tab to encourage the council to provide more barriers Mr Syms believes putting high barriers in place is not the answer.
“If you put up 6ft barriers it’s just more likely that some idiots are going to jump over them,” he said.