Thames21’s response to Defra’s plans to launch a new consultation on potential Bathing Water Regulation reforms for England

Yesterday at Parliament, Minister for Water & Rural Growth at Defra, Robbie Moore, announced plans to launch a consultation on a series of potential reforms for England to the Bathing Water Regulations (2013).

According to Moore, the proposed changes will drive work to improve bathing water quality, enhance monitoring, and enable more flexibility around the dates of the bathing water monitoring season—the current bathing water monitoring offer will be maintained as a minimum.
Applications to apply for Bathing Water Status are normally submitted to

Defra between the months of September and October.

However, Thames21 has learnt that the Defra has plans to move the 2024 date for applications. On its website, Defra stated: “We expect to begin accepting applications again in spring 2025.”

A Defra spokesperson told Thames21: “While Defra is updating the Bathing Water Regulations and associated application guidance, the application round for 2024 (for applications ahead of the new designations for the 2025 bathing season) will be paused.”

In response to this news, we issued a statement.

A Thames21 spokesperson said: “It is promising to hear that Defra have acknowledged communities’ concerns regarding the current bathing water regulations, and we hope this consultation process will result in much-needed improvements. Thames21 is calling for reforms such as the definition of bathers expanded to include other river users and organised swimming events, the monitoring season extended, the addition of multiple monitoring points, and automatic de-designation reassessed.

“However, the timing of this announcement is incredibly frustrating, announced two days before the beginning of the bathing water season. Communities, including Thames21, have already dedicated months of work to preparing and gathering support for bathing water applications in 2024.

“We urge Defra to reconsider this decision, and for applications to be reopened to those communities and groups with application projects already underway.”