Wild swimming spot in Plymouth to benefit from regular water-quality monitoring

It takes the total number of official bathing waters around the country to 424, the highest recorded Credit: Pauline Barker MBE

A swimming spot in Devon will receive regular water-quality monitoring from next month.

The government has announced that Firestone Bay in Plymouth will receive bathing water status meaning it will benefit from regular water-quality testing.

The site is one of four receiving bathing water status from next month, other sites are located in Rutland and Suffolk.

The Environment Agency will take regular samples at the newly designated sites during the bathing season – which runs between May 15 and September 30.

They take the total number of official bathing waters across the country to 424, the highest recorded.

The announcement follows the publication last week of the Government’s Plan For Water, which said water companies could face unlimited fines for dumping raw sewage in rivers, and outlined proposals which could see wet wipes containing plastic banned.

The Government said the proportion of bathing waters assessed as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ has increased from 76% to 93%, while 72% are considered ‘excellent’ compared with 51% in 2010.

This is despite classification standards for bathing waters being made stricter in 2015, it claims.

Firestone Bay is one of four more designated bathing waters created for wild swimmers. Credit: Pauline Barker/Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming

Labour said the plan amounted to a rehash of old policies and claimed the measures would not stop sewage being dumped.

Water minister Rebecca Pow said: “These popular swimming spots will now undergo regular monitoring, starting this May, so bathers have up-to-date information on the quality of the water."

“The regular monitoring also means that action can be taken if minimum standards aren’t being met."

“We now have more bathing waters than ever, and we’ve worked hard in recent years to boost their status – with an incredible 93% now classed as good or excellent – and our new Plan For Water will help us go further and faster on our targets.”

It will assess whether action is needed to cut pollution levels and works with local communities, farmers and water companies to improve water quality at the sites.

The water quality at Firestone bay will now be monitored by The Environment Agency Credit: Pauline Barker MBE / Devon and Cornwall Wild Simming

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says when it selects new swimming sites, it considers how many people bathe there, if the site has suitable infrastructure and facilities, such as toilets, and where investment in water quality improvements following designation would have the most impact.

Only those applications that meet these factors are taken forward to public consultation.

Pauline Barker, founder of Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming said: "people like to be made aware of the risks and be able to make their own informed choices so it’s another bit of information that people can use to decide whether or not it’s a safe day to swim."

"Plymouth is now Britain’s first national marine park so to have this extra bit of regulation that we can monitor our waters to make sure they really are being kept as clean as possible is a really good step forward".