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Defra consultation as section of River Avon in Fordingbridge to be designated as an official bathing water

A SECTION of the Avon River has been shortlisted for consideration as official bathing water.

Community group the Fordingbridge Avon Bathers (FAB) has been campaigning since April 2023 for the part of the river to be designated.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced it is now on their shortlist of inland bathing water sites.

Fordingbridge Avon bathing area
Fordingbridge Avon bathing area

FAB say the section at Fordingbridge Recreation Ground is “a vital resource for the town” and “incredibly popular with swimmers and children paddling and playing in the river”.

A survey showed that an overwhelming 98% of those questioned supported the application.

When a location is officially designated, the Environment Agency has a responsibility to test the water quality during the bathing season. Sites then receive a classification of ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’ at the end of the season.

The regulator then must take action to prevent, reduce, or eliminate the causes of any pollution.

FAB member Adam Ellis said: “We are delighted to hear that Defra has listened to our community about the importance of the Hampshire Avon, which is a globally important chalk river with the highest level of protection.

“I worry that the next generation isn’t going to fall in love with the river and protect it if their parents are too scared to let them paddle.

“Getting bathing water status will allow water users to make an informed choice, as well as driving further investigation and intervention into sources of pollution.”

River Avon beach
River Avon beach

Kirsty Davies, community water quality officer from Surfers Against Sewage, added: “Passionate communities like Fordingbridge Avon Bathers are leading the way in applying for bathing water status to protect the health of their local waterways, and people’s health.

“We know that inland waterways achieving bathing water designation isn’t a silver bullet to improve water quality.

“However, it is a vital next step in our plans to lift the lid on polluters, force regulators to act, and end sewage pollution for good.”

A Defra consultation on the designation ended on 10th March.

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