AN application to try and make the River Thames in Wallingford safer for swimmers, river users and wildlife has been submitted.

South Oxfordshire District Council and Wallingford Town Council, supported by environmental charity Thames21, have submitted an application to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for bathing water status for a stretch of the River Thames in the town.

If bathing water status is awarded, Thames Water would be legally required to treat waste outflows to a much higher standard. 

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This would ensure that bacteria harmful to the health of people and wildlife would be removed before the water can be released into the river.    

During the bathing season, from May to September each year, the Environment Agency would also be required to monitor the water quality. 

Information from the weekly testing would give visitors, including swimmers, rowers and anglers, a clearer picture of how clean the water is likely to be.

Throughout the summer, to help inform the application, Thames21 and trained volunteers from the local community recorded visitor numbers and collected 170 water quality samples along the river which were analysed by Thames Water.

It is hoped that Defra will make their decision on the application in early 2023.

Councillor Jo Robb, the district council’s ‘River Thames Champion’, said: “The Thames in Wallingford is very popular with visitors and residents, particular over the summer. 

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“The data we’ve collected so far is already helping us to get a better understanding of water quality in the river. 

“Achieving bathing water status will not solve all pollution problems. However, if our application is successful, it would guarantee ongoing testing during the bathing season and drive the investment needed to help create a cleaner river for people and wildlife.”

Marcus Harris, mayor of Wallingford, said: “Wallingford won its sought-after curfew extension and countless other privileges by permitting William the Conqueror to ford the river Thames here in 1066.

“To this day, our river and beach areas remain key to the beauty and enjoyment of our town for residents and visitors alike.

“This is why we are proud to be applying for bathing water status, which, if we get it, would make us only the third place in England to have achieved it.”

Stephen Haywood, natural flood management programme manager at Thames21, said: “The level of support received from the community has been amazing and is a clear representation of how much the River Thames means to Wallingford.

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"With or without a designation, this project has opened the door for further research and the implementation of solutions upstream to reduce the effects further.”


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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