Sudbury stretch awarded bathing water status

The River Stour Trust is delighted to have confirmation of the designation of bathing water status for the stretch of the River Stour along Friars Meadow at Sudbury, Suffolk.

The ‘Clean Water Initiative’ was led by the River Stour Trust and supported by Sudbury Town Council. The campaign was undoubtedly successful thanks to the determination and efforts of our Project Coordinator, John Kemp, who forged the way to this fantastic outcome.

Most designations cover coastal waters or lakes; but the special status has only been awarded to a few rivers. The stretch of the River Stour at Sudbury joins this privileged list which includes the River Wharfe near Ilkley, West Yorkshire; and a stretch of the River Thames at Port Meadow, Oxford.

John Kemp, says, “This is terrific news. Absolutely fantastic. A lot of people worked hard to achieve this
designation and I could not be more pleased for them. It’s not only good news for swimmers, but for everyone who uses the river, as rowers, canoeists, kayakers, paddleboarders, anglers and passengers in River Stour Trust launches. It’s great news for the environment as well, benefiting everything that lives and grows in the river.

What now happens 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. The results will be posted so that we can see for ourselves whether or not the water is safe to swim in. If any pollution is detected, they will have to seek its source and put an end to it.

In its recently published five-year plan, Anglian Water had already promised, provided we obtained bathing water designation, to upgrade the Sudbury sewage treatment works to make it safer for swimmers. So, we look forward to an early start on that. I’m sorry the designation only extends the length of Friars Meadow. We had hoped it would extend as far as Cornard Lock, but this is a great start. Although hundreds of seaside beaches and a handful of lakes have bathing water status, so far only two inland rivers have such protection – one in Yorkshire and one in Oxford. We will be number three. It’s time to celebrate.”

As we celebrate this achievement, we remind everyone that the River Stour is also a Navigation. The Sudbury stretch regularly attracts those using canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, rowing skiffs and powered boats. Anyone intending to swim in the river needs to be extra vigilant. Please be aware of other river users and do everything you can to be highly visible.

It was always our intention to improve water quality to benefit all river users. Therefore, we fully support the UK’s national water-based sports bodies (Paddle UK, British Rowing, Royal Yachting Association, Swim England, Great Britain Outrigger, Angling Trust and British Triathlon) in their formation of a ‘Clean Water Alliance’ asking the government to urgently re-think its approach to tackling our polluted waters. Part of the strategy is recognition of the wide range of activities that depend on clean water with a change from ‘bathing waters’ to ‘recreation waters’ within government policy.

Advocating for the restoration of the UK’s blue spaces for the enjoyment of all, the Alliance want to see these environments free of pollution and havens for wildlife, as well as places for everyone to be active in sport and recreation. Search online for ‘Clean Water Alliance’ to find out more.

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