Antrim and Jordanstown Lough Shore Parks, including Hazelbank in Newtownabbey and Cranfield on the shore of Lough Neagh, outside Randalstown, were nominated in a public consultation carried out by DAERA (the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) in a review of Northern Ireland’s bathing waters.
Councillors were told previously that open water swimming has become increasingly popular at Jordanstown and Antrim Lough Shore Parks with an increase in groups and individuals swimming at these locations and at Hazelbank during the Covid pandemic.
Previously, no areas in the borough were identified as having swimmers in sufficient numbers to qualify as designated bathing waters during the last review in 2017. Sites must have more than 45 bathers or 100 beach users to be included.
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has agreed to undertake responsibility to remove waste from local bathing water and to support an extension of seasonal bathing to year-round outdoor swimming.
A report presented to councillors at a meeting of the local authority on Monday evening said: “As there are groups of bathers currently swimming in
both loughs year round, it would be beneficial for the season to be extended.”
Members were also told that there is no requirement by the council to provide changing facilities at a nominated bathing water location. The council must ensure that where changing facilities are available, signage
must be put in place.
Signs must also be placed In the event of pollution incidents or during “exceptional weather” conditions that could be considered a “risk to human health”and where necessary, remove any waste.
If a bathing water receives a poor classification, warning signs must advise swimmers against bathing.
However, the council will not have any additional liability in relation to clearing any existing pollution with primary responsibility remaining with the Northern
Ireland Environment Agency.
Open water swimming was among activities suggested by the council to encourage residents to do more exercise. Parkruns and Couch to 5k runs have also been encouraged.
Last October, the authority nominated Antrim and Jordanstown Lough Shore Parks and Hazelbank as “formally identified bathing waters” as part of the DAERA review.
Commenting at Monday evening’s meeting, Antrim SDLP Councillor Roisin Lynch said: “I would like to welcome this. It 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 that list. I am happy to propose.”
The proposal was seconded by Antrim Ulster Unionist Councillor Jim Montgomery who also welcomed the addition of Cranfield.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter