Dear Mr Lev
SWIMMING IN OPEN WATER
Thank you for your letter of 14 September. I am very grateful for you raising these points as we do not wish to
seem to be against open water swimming, where this takes account of risks.
I quite agree that, in general, following the cases to which you refer, where there is a "natural" environment which
has social value it is unlikely, in the future, that public liability will arise for open water swimming accidents
although it is likely that there will be some exceptional cases. You will appreciate, however, that, in relation to the
"non-natural" environment, the Agency has a substantial number of structures etc. associated with water for which
we owe duties of care under the Occupiers Liability Acts for which we carry out risk assessments in order to protect
I now turn to some of the lettered paragraphs of your letter.
(a) The figure is a ROSPA figure. This is an aggregated figure which takes in all drownings. We do not
claim them to be drownings whilst swimming.
(b) Though the Agency is aware of this proposal, you would be best to raise this point direct with British
(c) We do not have a policy stopping people from swimming, nor do we aim to deprive people from the
opportunity to enjoy paddling and playing. Neither do we say that people should only swim in swimming
What we advocate is that people should only swim where they have a legal right to do so. We aim to raise
awareness of the risks, but people then have the freedom to choose what activities they do. We do highlight the
risks, especially in the summer season, to help prevent accidents.
(d) We do not support ROSPA directly, but work with them and many others, as part of the National
Water Safety Forum.
I believe we are acting responsibly in providing people with information on the risks they may
encounter if they choose to swim in open water. We are not saying they should or should not do so,
but are merely helping them participate in an informed manner. I do not believe that we are promoting
a discriminatory policy which disfavours open water swimming.
We do not put signs relating to swimming on land we do not own. However, we may as a result of a
formal risk assessment choose to put signs relating to swimming on our sites where it is identified as
necessary to manage an identified risk. As many of our sites are operational in nature they often carry
far greater risks than natural open water.
We do not impose bans.
I hope that this reassures you of our commitment to those who wish to enjoy the natural
environment in a safe and sustainable way.
If you would like to discuss further our promotion of open water swimming and the advice we provide
may I suggest you contact William Crookshank our Recreation Policy and Process Manager. He can
be contacted on 01454205561.
SIR JOHN HARMAN
Millbank Tower, 2Sth Floor, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4XL
Tel: 0207 863 8720 Fax: 0207 863 8722