In a first for the UK, a popular Yorkshire swimming spot to get bathing water status. It's a major success for campaigners trying to stop releases of untreated sewage into inland waters.
Part of the River Wharfe in Ilkley, Yorkshire, which is a popular swimming and paddling spot, is to be designated as 'bathing water' next year, after months of campaigning. It's the first time in the UK that a river has been classified as such and means it will be subjected to a much more rigorous and frequent testing regime by the Environment Agency.
Becky Malby, from the Ilkley Clean River Campaign, said: “We are delighted and excited by this decision. This is a significant environmental landmark as a step towards cleaning up the river so that it is fit for people and wildlife, and we hope that more designations at rivers in the UK will follow.”
The chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said the idea of rivers becoming bathing waters was a “gamechanger”, which could drive more funding to clean up the water.
It is likely other campaigners will follow in Ilkley’s footsteps. In Bath, Johnny Palmer is seeking bathing water status for Warleigh Weir, a popular swimming spot, and in London a campaign by London Waterkeeper is attempting to get sections of the Thames designated as bathing water and in Oxford, the city council recently backed a motion for an area of the Thames to be given the status.
Until now, only coastal waters in the UK have been given bathing water status - an EU directive brought in to safeguard public health and protect the aquatic environment from pollution.
It's good to see the green shoots of progress for cleaning up Britain's rivers, but we lag far behind some of our European neighbours. Until the Ilkley decision, no UK river had been given designated bathing water status. Germany has 38, Italy 73 and France has 573.
The environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “The residents of Ilkley and the surrounding area have shown their overwhelming appreciation for the River Wharfe as an asset to enjoy and protect. I am delighted that this stretch of river will be the first river to host a designated bathing water site. Unfortunately, we all know that water quality won’t change overnight. It will take time and we need farmers and businesses to commit to achieve the necessary improvements. I am pleased to see Yorkshire Water stepping forward with new proposals to help move things in the right direction.”
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