Plymouth Sutton and Devonport MP has today called for the waters around Devil’s Point and Firestone Bay to be designated an official bathing water subject to regular testing for water quality.
Devil’s Point, also known as Firestone Bay, is a popular spot for wild swimming, with swimming facilities already in place and beautiful views across Plymouth Sound. Plymouth currently has two bathing waters, both located along the foreshore of Plymouth Hoe. Luke’s campaign seeks to add Devil’s Point as the city’s third official bathing water helping swimmers and paddle boarders know the quality of the water before they get in the sea.
Plymouth’s rivers and seas are polluted by regular discharges of raw sewage. Concerns about the quality of the waters around Devil’s Point have been raised by Plymouth residents with Luke. This comes after the government refused to back a Labour amendment to the Environment Bill that would have prevented raw sewage being dumped into rivers and seas – forcing them into a partial U-turn.
If Devil’s Point was classified as a Bathing Water, the Environment Agency and South West Water would be required to monitor the quality of the water to ensure it was safe for bathing, by collecting water samples and testing the quality each year from May to September. It is hoped this would give the people of Plymouth confidence that Devil’s Point is safe to swim in, and force the Environment Agency to take action if pollution reached dangerous levels.
Mr Pollard will be launching a petition which he will present in Parliament calling on Devil’s Point to be designated a bathing water.
Luke Pollard MP said:
“As a keen wild-swimmer, I love swimming in the sea around Devil’s Point. The views are breath-taking and since the pandemic began Devil’s Point and Firestone Bay have become even more popular. The time is right for this part of the sea to be officially recognised as an important and valued bathing water.
“People in Plymouth need to be sure that the waters they are swimming in are safe, and that action will be taken to make it safe
“I’m proud my campaign to designate Plymouth Sound as the UK’s first National Marine Park has been a success. I now want to make sure we are monitoring and improving water quality while still preserving the diverse use of our ocean. If we are to live up to our name as Britain’s Ocean City, we need to properly recognise all our city’s bathing waters.”
Devil’s Point already has local swimming facilities, with an official swim zone for the public marked by three yellow swim buoys – which limit the speed of boat traffic and protect swimmers and other marine area users.
To receive the designation, the area needs to have several different requirements such as good accessibility, a public toilet, parking or transport links, lifeguards and first aid equipment and cafes or shops close by. Devil’s Point and Firestone Bay already meet most of these requirements by being free and accessible 24 hours a day, with nearby toilets, free parking, a café at the Artillery Tower and many restaurants at the Royal William Yard.
There are currently two sites in Plymouth designated as a bathing water by the Environment Agency: Plymouth Hoe East and Plymouth Hoe West, which are rated as “excellent” and “good” respectively. The Environment Agency issued two pollution risk warnings as recently as September 2021. The same warnings are needed to ensure Devil’s Point is safe.
Pauline Barker, founder of the Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming said:
“Firestone Bay has long been a popular spot for local swimmers and during the pandemic it has become a focal point in Plymouth for many people wanting to improve their health and wellbeing by partaking in outdoor sports such a wild swimming and paddleboarding. It would be reassuring for the water users to know that the water quality is monitored so that any instances of contamination, such as after heavy rainfall, can be assessed and evaluated.”