'Extremely brave' Phill Mitchell praised by Wakefield mayor for heroic Stanley Ferry clean-up

Heavy rainfall caused the river to swell, resulting in the waste building up around Stanley Ferry
Heavy rainfall caused the river to swell, resulting in the waste building up around Stanley Ferry

A man who risked his life to clean up a huge glut of waste in the River Calder has been hailed a hero by the mayor of Wakefield.

Phill Mitchell, 57, spent a whole weekend removing around a thousand pieces of plastic waste from the river at Stanley Ferry earlier this month.

Mr Mitchell, an experienced rock climber, lowered himself down onto the river to clean up the rubbish. Pictures by Steve Cadell

Mr Mitchell, an experienced rock climber, lowered himself down onto the river to clean up the rubbish. Pictures by Steve Cadell

Heavy rain had caused the river to swell, causing the rubbish to accumulate.

With the help of friends Darren Bray and Steve Cadell, Mr Mitchell managed to fill 65 bags with the rubbish.

Now, local councillors have commended the good Samaritan for his actions, and called on the Canal and River Trust, responsible for maintaining the waterways, to make sure the litter does not build up there again.

Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Stanley and Outwood East councillor Matthew Morley said: "River levels have risen in recent weeks, especially at Stanley Ferry.

The trio spent their entire weekend performing heroics.

The trio spent their entire weekend performing heroics.

"Down there by the aqueduct, it's been an absolute mess.

"The Canal and River Trust has been slow to do anything about it.

"They have indicated they're going to do something but they haven't indicated timescales or dates. As a council, we need to be keeping the pressure on them to do something about this.

"But I want to pay tribute to a gentleman called Phill Mitchell, who lives in the locality of Stanley and Outwood.

Mayor Charlie Keith (second from left) described Mr Mitchell's actions as "extremely brave".

Mayor Charlie Keith (second from left) described Mr Mitchell's actions as "extremely brave".

"A few weekends ago he took it upon himself, very dangerously, to go down and get bags of rubbish.

"Is there any way we can recognise the fantastic work he did that day?"

He will now be commended by the 'mayor says thanks' initiative, which is recognising the work of unsung heroes across the district this year.

The mayor, Councillor Charlie Keith said: "I certainly will recognise him.

"One of the things I might have to ask is for a health and safety review down at the River Calder!

"But he's an extremely brave man to be doing that, and he will be commended."

Asked about councillors' comments, Mr Mitchell said he was "over the moon" to be recognised.

He said he hopes it will help him spread awareness about the damage being done to the environment.

"Plastic bottles are the enemy for me really," he said.

"I'd like to see more being done by shops and manufacturers to eradicate them.

"The more I can highlight that message, the better really."

Speaking earlier this month, the Canal and River Trust said: "We appreciate this has been a long-standing concern for the community and seeing the scale of the issue we face in our waterways is shocking and distressing.

"Sadly, the efforts of these individuals only offers a short-term solution, with waste and driftwood likely to fill the trash screen again with high rainfall.

"We have a significant project planned for summer 2021, forecast to be costing in excess of £250,000.

"Planned engineering works will include strengthening the existing decking to improve accessibility for walkers and cyclists and enable heavy maintenance vehicle access to maintain the structure and safely remove litter, plastics and the natural debris and detritus."

Local Democracy Reporting Service