Henley Town Council have this week agreed to support an application for Bathing Water Designation (BWD) status in Henley and will ask South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) to support a joint application to be submitted in October 2023 after sampling and monitoring have taken place.
Thames Champion for SODC and Henley Mermaid, Cllr Jo Robb organised a meeting earlier this year with the Town Council and Thames21 (a charity established by the Environment Agency), Thames Water, British Waterways, Keep Britain Tidy and various local authorities for water improvement projects in the Thames Basin.
Thames21’s project, Reclaim our Rivers, is a two-year scheme to apply for BWD for four sites in the Thames Basin. They have expressed an interest in Henley being one of these sites. Knowledge and experience has been drawn from the Oxford Rivers Project where Port Meadow was successfully designated in 2022, and the Wallingford Bathing Water Project where the outcome is currently be appealed. Thames21 are investigating why Wallingford was unsuccessful in order
to take further action to strengthen future applications.
In February, the Town Council’s Recreation & Amenities Committee proposed the installation of steps into the river at Marsh Meadows to facilitate wild swimming and have applied for this under a Lawful Development application. The provision of the step ladder into the river is connected to, but is not dependent on, the proposal for BWD. However, should a BWD application be made, local amenities such as access to the river and nearby toileting and changing facilities will be a consideration.
There is currently water quality issues within the Thames catchment. Thames21 would look to recruit and train volunteers in the undertaking of water quality sampling to provide data that would be used for the BWD application. The water sampling and analysis would be carried out by Thames Water.
There would also be community engagement and user surveys carried out by Thames 21 between May and October 2023.
It is hoped that the outcome of the application would be known in March 2024.