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The River Stour at Sudbury looks set to be granted designated bathing water status following a government announcement

A Suffolk river looks set to be finally granted bathing water status.

The River Stour at Sudbury is one if three in East Anglia named by the Environment Agency today – ‘expected’ to be designated this year.

Following a final public consultation - it means the river will undergo regular water monitoring by the Agency, who will investigate pollution sources and identify steps to be taken in response, which could include actions by water companies, farmers and others.

River Stour: Picture: Mecha Morton
River Stour: Picture: Mecha Morton

It follows calls for a clean-up by campaigners, residents and river users over a number of years – and a joint bid made by the River Stour Trust and Sudbury Town Council in March last year.

John Kemp, trust member and bid coordinator, said: “This is terrific news. Absolutely fantastic. A lot of people did a lot of work to achieve this designation and I could not be more pleased for them.

“Assuming that the decision is confirmed, what it means is that the Environment Agency will be required to test the water in the river Stour, adjacent to Friars Meadow every week during the bathing season – from the Middle of May to the end of September.

Sudbury WI tea party in support of the campaign to improve water quality. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sudbury WI tea party in support of the campaign to improve water quality. Picture: Mecha Morton

“The results will be posted so that we can see for ourselves is the water is safe to swim in or not. If they detect any pollution they will then have to find it and put and end to it.

“Anglian Water had already included plans to upgrade the Sudbury Sewage treatment works in its recently published five year plan, provided we obtained the bathing water designation.

“So, this promises to be the start of a whole new chapter of river swimming for Sudbury, and no doubt for the general river environment as well.

“I’m sorry that the designation only extends the length of Friars Meadow.

Campaigners in August 2022
Campaigners in August 2022

“We had hoped it would extend to the far end of Lady Island, not because we expect swimmers to use the island, but because we believe other river users, like the rowers, canoeists, scouts, paddle boarders and the River Stour Trust launches are as much entitled to clean water as are swimmers.

“But what a great start. I think we deserve a party.”

The new swimming spots are set to be designated as bathing water sites ahead of the warmer months and benefit from regular bathing water monitoring.

It part of the government’s plan to improve water quality across the country.

Subject to a two-week consultation, Manningtree Beach in Essex, the River Cam at Sheep’s Green in Cambridgeshire and the River Stour at Sudbury could benefit from regular water monitoring from the 2024 bathing water season, which runs between May 15 and September 30.

The bathing waters are among 27 new swimming spots expected to be designated across England.

All residents, bathers, businesses, and organisations are invited to have their say before the consultation closes on March 10 2024.

Water minister Robbie Moore said: “Many people enjoy spending time in our rivers, lakes, and coastal beaches, and I am thrilled to see three new bathing water sites proceeding to consultation in East Anglia alone.

“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 a interest to take part in this consultation and have their say.”

Last year, 96 per cent of bathing waters in England met minimum standards and 90 per cent of bathing waters in England were rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, up from 76 per cent in 2010, despite the classification standards becoming stricter in 2015.

To find out more about the consultation, visit: www.consult.defra.gov.uk