The myth: The Times claims that Defra is secretly helping local authorities who want to stop beaches being designated as ‘swimming’ beaches - which would mean water quality wouldn’t be tested to ensure it’s clean enough to swim in.
The truth: This is simply not true. We have not, and would not help local authorities, in secret or otherwise, take swimming spots off the official list (which is known as de-designation).
If local authorities ask us for guidance on interpreting EU Law on water quality and its implementation in England, we give it - but we don’t help or encourage them get a beach de-designated. It’s up to local authorities and private owners to apply for de-designation if they want to, but they must provide strong evidence that the beach isn’t used for swimming and paddling by significant numbers of people. It’s not something we’d encourage them to do because we want to see more swimming and recreation, not less. It is important that the water people swim in is clean and healthy and this is what these designations are all about.