DOZENS of new wild swimming areas are to follow Ilkley’s lead and be designated as bathing water sites, the Water Minister - and the town’s MP - Robbie Moore has announced this week.

Following a public consultation, 27 new bathing water sites will be designated ahead of this summer, taking the total across England to 451.

The classification of the River Wharfe at Ilkley has attracted national headlines due to the discharges of sewage in the river, which makes swimming inadvisable and has been a major campaigning point by pressure organisation the Ilkley Clean River Group.

Mr Moore said: "Improving the water quality at our coast, rivers and lakes is incredibly important, especially as more and more people like to enjoy our outdoor environments to swim.

“The River Wharfe in Ilkley was the UK’s first river to have a special bathing water designation - with many beaches having such status. This has driven more monitoring of water quality and vast investment locally in Ilkley to help improve the water quality.

“As Minister for Water, I am announcing the designation of a further 27 new bathing waters (five coastal, six estuarine, four lakes and 12 river locations) - taking our total to 451 bathing water sites in England.

“In addition, I can announce that Defra plans to consult on a series of potential reforms for England to the Bathing Water Regulations 2013. This will include the removal of the automatic de-designation of a bathing water if the site has been classified consistently as ‘Poor’ for a rolling five year period.

“It will also include taking water quality status into account as part of the application process and look at whether the current bathing water season from the 15th May to the 30th September can be expanded to better suit local usage of the bathing waters - bringing with it expanded water quality monitoring."

The Environment Agency regularly monitors water quality at designated bathing water sites and assesses whether action is needed to cut pollution levels – working with local communities, farmers, and water companies to improve water quality at these locations.

Environment Agency Chair Alan Lovell said: “Overall bathing water quality has improved massively over the last decade due to targeted and robust regulation from the Environment Agency, and the good work carried out by partners and local groups. Last year, 96% of sites met minimum standards, up from just 76% in 2010 – and despite stricter standards being introduced in 2015.”