Henley to Reapply for Bathing Water Designation

At the Town Council’s Recreation and Amenities Committee last week, the council unanimously voted to reapply for Bathing Water Designation (BWD) for Henley. This follows a previously unsuccessful application in 2023.

Henley first applied for Bathing Water Designation as part of Thames21’s initiative, the Reclaim our Rivers project. Despite initial efforts and support from the council and South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), the 2023 application was rejected due to an insufficient number of swimmers – a minimum of 100 on the day of assessment. While the number of swimmers counted during a planned event exceeded the threshold, DEFRA’s criteria did not include participants at organised events in the total count.

Recognizing the potential benefits of BWD, including a healthier river environment and increased community awareness, the council reaffirmed its commitment to the campaign within its Strategic Plan (unveiled at last week’s Full Council meeting). However, achieving BWD requires either lobbying DEFRA to amend the criteria (seemingly unlikely to be successful), or an increase in casual swimming numbers.

Councillor Buckley expressed concerns about using BWD in order to improve river cleanliness, as more swimmers would need to be encouraged in order to meet DEFRA’s criteria. Currently, cleanliness concerns deter potential swimmers, highlighting the importance of monitoring water quality whilst also promoting river swimming.

The committee recommended allocating up to £5,000 from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to fund the reapplication in October 2024, with Thames21 contributing the remaining amount.

Other sites, such as the riverside in Wallingford, have succeeded in reapplying for Bathing Water Designation.

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