Southampton's waterfront could be opened up to the public and surrounding waters given bathing status as part of the council leader's vision for the city.

Cllr Satvir Kaur told the Echo that for 'too long' the waterfront had been largely inaccessible and she was working with Associated British Ports (ABP), which occupies the area, to address this.

She also described the dumping of raw sewage as an ‘outrage’ and ‘disgusting’ – and bathing water status would give residents and wildlife greater protection.

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Plans would also give open water swimmers a section of the River Itchen to use.

Cllr Kaur told the Echo: “As a coastal city for too long we have turned our backs to our waters and our waterfront is largely inaccessible.

“I’m working hard with partners like ABP to address this, but also where we do have access, we should be maximising it."

Daily Echo: Cllr Satvir KaurCllr Satvir Kaur (Image: Chris Moorhouse.)She added: “People should be allowed to enjoy our waters, get in and have a swim without worrying about their health.”

Cllr Kaur said her plans to get bathing water status for Southampton stemmed from Government inaction over the dumping of raw sewage.

She said: “Our waters deserve protecting from the dumping of raw sewage, which is an outrage and quite frankly, disgusting.

“Government had a chance to do more to stop this but decided not to. Locally, one way to help protect our waters is by applying for bathing water status.

Daily Echo:

“It means there is then a legal requirement to inform the public of any sewage discharge.

“I have personally spoken to Southern Water about this, who are supportive.

“I look forward to working with them, local communities and partners to make this a reality for Southampton.”   

Bathing water status would also give open water swimmers to have their own designated space to swim along the River Itchen.

Hampshire Open Water Swimmers group welcomed the news.

They said: “Currently the water quality in some areas of the Itchen is below 'poor' and it would have to be improved to be 'good.' This would restrict, or at least minimize the sewage that is currently dumped in the river.

“This has to be in the best interest of public health, as well as protecting our precious chalk streams.”

Defra – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – would have final approval on a bathing water site. A spokesperson said they are yet to receive an application from the council.

If a site is designated, the Environment Agency would be charged with monitoring the area and identify action needed to improve the water quality.