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Government consultation for more ‘designated bathing waters’

Swim England is encouraging its members, and everyone who enjoys the benefits of swimming, to take part in a Government consultation for more ‘designated bathing waters’.

The consultation is currently for two additional stretches of water to be declared as designated bathing waters, but the national governing body are also calling for the Government to be ‘more ambitious’.

The areas being proposed are a stretch of river in Oxfordshire at Wolvercote Mill, and East Cowes Esplanade on the Isle of Wight.

Responding to the news, Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said: “Bathing water designation is important for two reasons.

“One, it sends a clear message that our rivers and waters are there for people to enjoy and are a legitimate place for people to be swimming.

“Secondly, it can also act as a catalyst for seeing improvements to water quality through increased testing and a greater focus on the quality of the water at these locations.

Positive step

“We want to see the Government be much more ambitious when it comes to designating many more stretches of water as ‘bathing waters’.

“Whilst it’s important to recognise that just because a stretch of water isn’t officially a designated ‘bathing water’, they can still be enjoyed by swimmers and other water users alike, and a designation does not guarantee improvements in water quality.

“However, a bathing water classification is a positive step so we would encourage swimmers to respond to the consultation in support of these locations, irrespective of where they live.”

Swim England has also provided some key points that can be used as part of any response to the consultation. These are:

  • Such a designation will send an important signal that people are welcomed and encouraged to be active outside in our blue spaces, for the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing.
  • 4 million adults feel swimming has significantly reduced their anxiety or depression.
  • Research from Swim England has revealed that swimming outdoors has been shown to generate more than double the happiness of swimming indoors.
  • Women and girls benefit the most from swimming, reporting that swimming more than doubles their self-confidence. Research from Outdoor Swimmer also shows that the popularity of outdoor swimming is growing amongst women and girls, with female participation increasing from 50 per cent in 2017 to 65 per cent in 2020.
  • The 2021 Outdoor Swimmer trends report also revealed that more than 70 per cent of people say that being an outdoor swimmer has made them more concerned about water pollution and the majority were also more concerned about wildlife and nature conservation, so the more people who are encouraged to use these waterways through things like official designation as a bathing water, the greater numbers of people who will.

People can give their views by emailing [email protected] or by completing the online surveys below.

The deadline for responding is Wednesday 2 March.