Members of the public are now invited to participate in a consultation to support the roll-out of potentially 27 new English bathing water sites.

The two-week consultation will be administrated by the Environment Agency (EA) as part of the government’s plan to improve water quality across England. If designated, sites will receive regular water monitoring from the EA, which will investigate pollution sources and identify steps to be taken in response, which could include actions by water companies, farmers and others. Currently, data on water quality are taken from 15 May to 30 September in the current designated bathing sites by the EA resulting is the annual water quality classifications of Excellent, Good, Sufficient or Poor.

Across England, 27 proposed sites are being considered for designation in the consultation. The consultation, which closes on the 10th of March is being conducted online and asking for residents, bathers, businesses, and organisations by the proposed sites to take part. Respondents will be asked whether they agree, disagree or are neutral about a proposed designation, questions about the facilities or infrastructure at or near each site will also feature. This could include things like, for example, parking or changing facilities, or infrastructure such as water company assets or farming infrastructure. If successful, new sites would receive annual water quality testing throughout the bathing period.


Credit: Mali Maeder


Currently, when selecting new sites, Defra considers how many people bathe there and if the site has suitable infrastructure and facilities, such as toilets. Through this consultation, Defra is seeking as wide a range of views as possible to support our decision on whether the 27 proposed sites should be added to the list of designated bathing waters in England, in line with the requirements of the Bathing Water Regulations 2013. The Bathing Water Regulations (S.I.2013/1675) (“the Regulations”) define a bathing water as a surface water where “…the Secretary of State expects a large number of people to bathe, having regard in particular to past trends and any infrastructure or facilities provided, or other measures taken, to promote bathing at those waters.”  The objective of designating a beach or inland water as a bathing water is to protect bathers’ health by monitoring for intestinal enterococci and E.coli in the water.

Water Minister Robbie Moore said:

“Many people enjoy spending time in our rivers, lakes, and coastal beaches, and I am very aware of the value they bring in terms of social, health and wellbeing benefits.

I want to continue to improve the quality of our bathing waters, which is why we are taking action across the board to drive up standards and hold water companies to account. 

I encourage all local communities and organisations with an interest to take part in this consultation and have their say.”

In England there are only three rivers that have sections designated for swimming, in 2023, all three were classified as “poor” by the EA.

James Wallace, CEO of River Action UK, said: “Last year, Defra refused to give reasons for turning down most applications and have failed to punish polluters. We expect the government to approve most or all new applications, and to ensure water companies honour the new status with appropriate investment in their leaky infrastructure, and penalise those that continue to pollute.

Participate in the consultation here [closing 10th March] Read the Consultation document outlining the proposed 27 bathing sites in more depth here

Read the Government press release here

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