River Nene - Safety Kit Persistently Vandalised

The Environment Agency is warning life-belts along the River Nene is being vandalised so frequently, not every piece of kit will be replaced.

The warning comes after a 15 year-old boy died at the Woodford Lock in Northamptonshire during the week - his body was found at around 3 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon after he and some friends got into difficulty whilst swimming in the water during the hot weather.

The Environment Agency have told Heart: "It is a sad fact that Woodford lock is one of the worst vandalised locks within the River Nene system. In one year alone we had to replace the lifebelt 10 times, almost every time we inspected the lock.  On at least one occasion the belt and its stand were set on fire. 

We will replace lifebelts a number of times (our guidance is three times in six months although we often replace them more often) when we stop replacing them as they can no longer be seen to be effective safety tools because they are missing for a considerable amount of time.

At 17 out of 38 locks along the River Nene from Northampton to Peterborough we have stopped replacing lifebelts because of wanton vandalism.

We place lifebelts at our locks for the use of boaters who may fall into the water when getting on and off their boats. According to RoSPA, such safety devices need to be within 50m of where they are needed.

Where lifebelts are repeatedly destroyed, stolen or lost down the river they can no longer be seen as useful in rescue attempts.

If there is an expectation that there will be lifebelts at a site people come to rely on it and when they are missing they are unprepared.

We want to be able to continue to offer potential life-saving devices to boaters and would welcome the help of any communities willing to take a day-to-day interest in their local lock to help reduce vandalism.

Their help would also be valuable in keeping youngsters safe by talking to them about the dangers of swimming too close to potential undercurrents from locks and the dangers of jumping into unknown conditions in the water."

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