A Suffolk river could become one of only three rivers in the UK to be certified for use by bathers, which will help in the fight against pollution.

Campaign group Save The Deben is set to submit an application for designated bathing water status for the River Deben to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which is responsible for environmental protection.

The group’s co-founders Ruth Leach and county councillor Caroline Page, both regular swimmers in the Deben, are behind the application, which if approved would result in greater monitoring of E.coli levels at one bathing point by the Environment Agency.

The status would also enable sources of pollution in the river to be identified and action to be taken against the polluters.

Ms Leach, a founder member of the Deben and Orwell Bluetits open water swimming group, said the river had been affected by pollutants, including water running off farmland, rubber and brake pad pollution from cars and microplastic contamination.

East Anglian Daily Times: A warning sign at Ufford Hole where E.coli was foundA warning sign at Ufford Hole where E.coli was found (Image: DAVID FINDLEY)

Last week, the EADT reported how levels of E.coli over the legal limit were found at Hawkswade Bridge, known locally as Ufford Hole, which is a popular bathing spot for swimmers and children.

Currently, the River Wharfe at Ilkley in Yorkshire and a stretch of the River Thames at Port Meadow, Oxford, are the only rivers with designated bathing water status in the UK.

By contrast, France has more than 500 rivers with designated bathing water status.

The existing UK status holders were able to demonstrate that 400 swimmers a day used the rivers, but Ms Leach said there were also stand-up paddle boarders, kayakers and dinghy sailors who used the Deben, who could be included among the bathers at the Deben.

She said they would be at the same level of risk from pollution as the swimmers if they fell in.

The application needs to be submitted by DEFRA’s October 31 deadline and the campaigners hope to have achieved the status by the start of the next bathing season in May 2023.

“What we are trying to do is apply for a stretch of the river from Woodbridge to Waldringfield because we have got lots and lots of bathers, kayakers and paddle boarders.

“Since we came out of lockdown our appreciation of recreational blue space and nature generally has soared and there has been a huge surge in open water swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding along this strip of the Deben,” Ms Leach added.

A series of public consultations will be taking place about the plans, including at Whisstocks Place, Woodbridge over the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend.