Three Co Antrim sites approved for open water swimming all year round

Open water swimming has been boosted in Antrim and the borough of Newtownabbey with three venues to be officially identified for the sport.

ntrim and Jordanstown Lough Shore Parks, including Hazelbank in Newtownabbey and Cranfield on the shores of Lough Neagh outside Randalstown, were named following a public consultation conducted by DAERA (the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) as part of a review of Northern Ireland. bathing waters.

Councilors were previously advised that open water swimming has become increasingly popular in Jordanstown and Antrim Lough Shore Parks with an increase in the number of groups and individuals swimming at these locations and at Hazelbank during the Covid pandemic.

Previously, no area in the borough had been identified as having swimmers in sufficient numbers to qualify as designated bathing waters when last reviewed in 2017. Sites must have more than 45 bathers or 100 beach users to be included.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has agreed to take responsibility for removing waste from local bathing waters and supporting an extension of seasonal bathing to year-round outdoor bathing.

A report presented to councilors at a local authority meeting on Monday evening said: “As there are groups of bathers who currently swim in both lakes all year round, it would be beneficial if the season were extended. “

Members were also informed that the council is not required to provide change rooms at a designated swimming location. The board should ensure that where change rooms are available, signage should be in place.

Signs must also be posted in the event of pollution incidents or during “exceptional weather” conditions that could be considered a “risk to human health” and, where appropriate, waste disposal.

If bathing water receives a poor rating, warning signs should advise bathers against bathing.

However, the council will have no further responsibility in relation to the removal of any existing pollution, with primary responsibility remaining with the Environment Agency of Northern Ireland.

Open water swimming was among the activities suggested by the council to encourage residents to exercise more. Parkruns and Couch 5km away were also encouraged.

Last October, the authority designated Antrim and Jordanstown Lough Shore Parks and Hazelbank as “officially identified bathing waters” as part of the DAERA review.

Commenting on Monday evening’s meeting, Antrim SDLP councilor Roisin Lynch said: “I would like to welcome that. This is something that has taken off and there is great interest in cold water swimming. I welcome the addition of Cranfield in the west of the borough to this list. I’m happy to suggest.

The proposal was backed by Antrim Ulster Unionist councilor Jim Montgomery, who also welcomed Cranfield’s addition.