Record number of wild swimming spots designated as bathing sites

A record number of wild swimming spots have been designated as bathing sites in England ahead of the summer months, the Government has confirmed.

The Environment Agency will immediately start monitoring the water quality at 27 sites which the Government had proposed as new bathing sites during a consultation earlier this year.

It brings the total number of sites for the 2024 water bathing season, which runs between May 15 and September 30, to 451 across England.

The Environment Department (Defra) said the Government will also launch a consultation later this year on proposals to reform bathing water regulations in England.

Summer weather July 30th
A swimmer dives into the water at the mixed bathing ponds in Hampstead Heath, London (Yui Mok/PA)

Defra said it will seek public and stakeholder views on extending the definition of “bathers” to include a wider range of water users beyond swimmers – such as rowers, kayakers and paddle boarders.

Defra said that last year 96% of bathing waters in England met minimum annual standards and 90% were rated as “good” or “excellent”.

But there has been growing public anger over the state of England’s rivers and coastal waters, which suffer pollution from sewage outlets and other sources such as agricultural run-off.

The new bathing waters include a dozen river sites like the Severn at Ironbridge, and Wallingford Beach on the River Thames in Oxfordshire.

In addition, several spots on Coniston Water and one on Derwent Water, in Cumbria, have been added as designated spots.

These water sites are regularly monitored by the Environment Agency, which assesses whether action is needed to cut pollution levels and works with local communities, farmers and water companies to improve water quality.

Making the announcement on what was described as the largest ever rollout of new bathing sites, water minister Robbie Moore said: “The value our bathing waters bring to local communities is incredibly valuable – providing social, physical and positive health and wellbeing benefits to people around the country – and I am pleased to have approved a further 27 new bathing water sites for this year.

“I am fully committed to seeing the quality of our coastal waters, rivers and lakes rise further for the benefit of the environment and everyone who uses them.”

Alan Lovell, Environment Agency chairman, said: “Overall bathing water quality has improved massively over the last decade due to targeted and robust regulation from the Environment Agency, and the good work carried out by partners and local groups.

“We know that improvements can take time and investment from the water industry, farmers and local communities, but where the investment is made, standards can improve.”

The new bathing water sites also include: Coastguards Beach in Devon; Goring Beach and Worthing Beach House in West Sussex; Littlehaven Beach in Tyne and Wear; Manningtree Beach in Essex; River Avon at Fordingbridge in Hampshire; River Cam at Sheep’s Green in Cambridge; River Dart Estuary at Dittisham; Steamer Quay, Stoke Gabriel and Warfleet in Devon; River Frome at Farleigh Hungerford and River Tone in French Weir Park in Somerset; River Nidd at the Lido Leisure Park in North Yorkshire; River Ribble at Edisford Bridge in Lancashire; River Severn at Shrewsbury and River Teme at Ludlow in Shropshire; River Stour at Sudbury in Suffolk; River Wharfe at Wetherby Riverside in West Yorkshire; and Rottingdean Beach in East Sussex.

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