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Sudbury River Stour clean-up bid sees push towards 'bathing status' suggested



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Concerns about the poor health of Sudbury’s main river have led to suggestions that authorities should aspire towards achieving a national ‘bathing status’, to help co-ordinate efforts to clean up the water.

The ‘Stop the Poo’ demonstration caught the eyes in Sudbury town centre last month, as campaigners highlighted the level of pollution in the River Stour and called for action to stop water companies dumping sewage.

Days after the protest march, Sudbury Town Council heard figures that sewage had been dumped into the Stour on 389 occasions last year, for a total of over 4,000 hours.

Green campaigners held a protest march to raise awareness of the poor water quality of the River Stour in Sudbury. Picture: Mecha Morton
Green campaigners held a protest march to raise awareness of the poor water quality of the River Stour in Sudbury. Picture: Mecha Morton

At a meeting of the council’s leisure and environment committee, members discussed the possibility of pursuing a ‘bathing water’ designation for the river.

The designation officially identifies bodies of water that are popular for swimmers, paddlers and bathers, thereby requiring the Environment Agency to regular monitor the water quality and pollution sources to protect the bathing water.

However, just one river – the River Wharfe in Ilkey – has so far achieved this formal status.

The ‘Stop the Poo’ demonstration caught the eyes in Sudbury town centre last month. Picture: Mecha Morton
The ‘Stop the Poo’ demonstration caught the eyes in Sudbury town centre last month. Picture: Mecha Morton

Jessie Carter, Green Party county councillor for Sudbury, told the town council that she felt this designation would be worth looking for the River Stour.

Referring to the river’s current health, Cllr Carter said: “We are all aware that sewage is being dumped into the river.

“It’s not continuous and it’s not all the time, but it is happening.

“There are good things that are happening as well. The Environment Agency says there is 69 per cent less phosphorus and 79 per cent less ammonia in the Stour in the last two decades.

“Their ambition is for 75 per cent of rivers to achieve good ecological status by 2043, and the River Stour is actually classed as moderate.

“They are now saying they are cracking down on water companies for sewage they are pumping in. There have been seven prosecutions against the water companies for a total of £90million worth of fines.

“There’s now one river in England that has got bathing status, and there’s another currently going through the process,” she said.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean ‘go jump in it’, but the amount of paddle boarders, rowers, anglers we have, we should be looking after all of them and the amount of the time they spend using the river.

“I would suggest that is something we should consider going for. The river is such a big part of the town, so we need to seriously look at it.”

Town councillor Steve Hall said he had contacted the River Stour Trust – the charity dedicated to the river’s conservation – about the pollution concerns, and revealed they had also floated the idea of seeking bathing status.

Subsequently, councillors agreed to invite trust representatives to meet with them and further investigate what is needed to achieve the designation.

He said: “I have an email from [River Stour Trust administrator] Catherine Burrows, which is all about working together towards the designated bathing water status.

“Their members and the river users, including Sudbury Rowing Club, share concerns on water quality.”