THE River Tone in Taunton is among those being considered for bathing water site status, Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent, reports.

Stretches of rivers across England will be designated as swimming spots as part of Government plans to establish dozens of new sites.

Somerset has two sites on the list of sites to be considered, the River Tone in French Weir and River Frome at Farleigh Hungerford.

Somerset County Gazette: Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow at French Weir Park in TauntonTaunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow at French Weir Park in Taunton (Image: Contributed)

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said: “I am absolutely thrilled that the River Tone in Taunton may be designated as a new bathing water site and I would encourage my constituents to have their say in the consultation which closes on March 10.

"As a Government, we are cleaning up our rivers, cracking down on water companies and have introduced a target for no one to live more than a 15-minute walk from a green or blue (water) space.

"I’ve long championed these issues in Parliament both in my capacity as the local MP but also as Environment Minister and indeed as a former Water Minister who instigated the Plan for Water introduced in April last year.

"Designating the River Tone as a bathing water site would bring huge benefits to the local community.”

Last year, Taunton Town Council worked with the Friends of French Weir group to support the application for Designated Bathing Water Status (DBWS) for the river.

A total of 27 new bathing sites would be designated under the plans, many of which are in rivers and lakes, significantly boosting the number of such official inland swimming areas.

If designated, the sites would receive regular water monitoring by the Environment Agency, which would investigate pollution sources and identify steps to be taken in response, officials said.

People would be able to see whether it was safe to swim in the waters, which include popular “wild swimming” spots.

The Environment Department (Defra) said last year 96 per cent of bathing waters in England met minimum annual standards and 90 per cent were rated as “good” or “excellent”.

But there has been growing public anger over the state of England’s rivers and coastal waters, which suffer pollution from sewage outlets and other sources such as agricultural runoff.

Gideon Amos, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Taunton and Wellington, drafted the application.

He said: “This is a massive win for ordinary Taunton residents and users of our River Tone.

"At last there will be proper monitoring of water quality and support and guidance for the many who swim in the river at French Weir, and recognition for something people have enjoyed right here for hundreds of years.

"Seeing Taunton really come together to back this idea, along with better bathing facilities, and the real passion to see our rivers improved - has been fantastic.

"It's a tribute to the Friends of French Weir and the Taunton community.”

Janine Appleton added: “I’m absolutely thrilled, as are the rest of the Friends of French Weir Park committee, at the news that we’ve reached the public consultation stage of our application for Bathing Water Status.

“Gideon Amos and I, along with the rest of the Friends committee, worked very hard to get this far, and the Safe Swim sessions we held last year at the river steps in French Weir Park showed just how valued our river is for both the local and wider community,

“It was amazing to see so many people enjoy swimming in the River Tone, which is something we look forward to again this year – as soon as the weather allows, of course.

“We're very much looking forward to continuing to support our wild swimmers, families, runners after the weekly Park Run, and everyone else who loves to take a dip in the Tone, and encourage everyone to go to the Defra website and complete the online survey before the deadline on March 10.”