27 new bathing sites considered for England as activists highlight sewage dangers | Water

Twenty seven new bathing sites are being considered for England, but campaigners have said that swimming remains dangerous in many areas because of the pathogens caused by sewage dumping.

If all of these sites are granted, it will be the largest ever number of bathing sites in rivers, lakes and coastal areas approved in one year. Activists campaign for bathing water status because it means the government is obliged to test the quality of the water throughout the summer months.

Almost all of the new bathing sites – 22 out of the 27 – are in Tory constituencies. Conservatives have recently suffered in the polls because of a perceived failure to act on sewage pollution. The government is consulting on these new sites in a process that ends on 10 March.

Only three rivers in England have sections designated for swimming, and all of them received a “poor” water quality rating from the Environment Agency last year. Sewage spills and agricultural runoff mean that swimming sites can carry E coli and intestinal enterococci, which would make swimmers ill. Analysis has also found that most applications for bathing status are rejected, and last year just four were designated.

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.”

The Liberal Democrats’ environment spokesperson, Tim Farron MP, said: “This is yet another half-baked announcement, which does not ban water firms from dumping sewage into bathing water areas. This can’t be another PR trick by the Conservative party on water quality. Right now, swimmers are getting sick from sewage being piled into bathing water sites.”

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.”

The proposed new sites

  • Church Cliff beach, Lyme Regis, Dorset

  • Coastguards beach, River Erme, Devon

  • Coniston boating centre, Coniston Water, Cumbria

  • Coniston Brown Howe, Coniston Water, Cumbria

  • Littlehaven beach, Tyne and Wear

  • Manningtree beach, Essex

  • Monk Coniston, Coniston Water, Cumbria

  • River Avon at Fordingbridge, Hampshire

  • River Cam at Sheep’s Green, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

  • River Dart estuary at Dittisham, Devon

  • River Dart estuary at Steamer Quay, Totnes, Devon

  • River Dart estuary at Stoke Gabriel, Devon

  • River Dart estuary at Warfleet, Dartmouth, Devon

  • River Frome at Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset

  • River Nidd at the Lido leisure park in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

  • River Ribble at Edisford Bridge, Lancashire

  • River Severn at Ironbridge, Shropshire

  • River Severn at Shrewsbury, Shropshire

  • River Stour at Sudbury, Suffolk

  • River Teme at Ludlow, Shropshire

  • River Tone in French Weir Park, Taunton, Somerset

  • Wallingford beach, River Thames, Berkshire

  • Derwent Water, Crow Park, Keswick, Cumbria

  • River Wharfe at Wetherby Riverside, West Yorkshire

  • Goring beach, Worthing, West Sussex

  • Worthing Beach House, Worthing, West Sussex

  • Rottingdean beach, Rottingdean, East Sussex

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