Defra Shortlists River Cam for Bathing Water Designation

Cam Valley Forum is very pleased that Defra announced on 26 February that Cam Valley Forum’s application for Bathing Water Designation for the River Cam at Sheep’s Green has been shortlisted.  It is one of 27 applications included in Defra’s statutory consultation

Anne Miller, Cam Valley Forum’s lead on this says “We will have to wait a few more weeks to hear if we will be granted designation, but this is a great step forward. A cleaner Cam is within our grasp”

We started working on this back in 2020, and last summer received overwhelming support in our formal consultation, with 517 responses, 93% in support. This included strong support from organisations including Cambridge City Council, Scudamores, Cambridge Canoe Club and the Cambridge Federation of Women’s Institutes.

Our surveys showed that hundreds of bathers enjoy swimming in the River Cam on peak days in summer, although, because the water is cold, one only sees a few people in the water at a time.

Designation is important because we know that the water quality is currently poor, and if Defra approves our application, this will trigger a ‘driver’ for much needed investment from Anglian Water. This investment will focus on understanding the sources of pollution and then (subject to approval by Ofwat) Anglian Water would invest to help clean up the Cam to help make it safer for swimmers.  Ofwat would typically require these improvement schemes to be in place by 2027.

 We know from our monitoring work over the last few years, that the ageing and overloaded sewage infrastructure in the Haslingfield area is a major source of the faecal pollution of the River Cam. This isn’t the only source of pollution of course, nor the only reason people can get sick, but we hope that as a result of Bathing Water Designation, it will become much safer for people to swim in the River Cam.” 

Michael Goodhart said

“The Town Bathing Place at Sheep’s Green has a history going back several hundred years, as a place where people could swim.  Back in the 1960s my family would picnic and catch tiddlers along Rush and float rafts in the paddling pool.  I was taught to swim in Snob’s Stream, before being allowed to dive into the main River Cam.  I still love swimming in the River Cam, as do so many people.  Bathing Water Designation provides a major opportunity for improving the quality of the river water for swimmers, boaters and also, very importantly we hope, for wildlife

Do respond to Defra’s consultation by the deadline of 10 March