Swimming in the floating harbour

I would like to propose that a suitable area of the floating harbour is set aside for use for swimming in the city centre. At present there is nowhere outdoors where the people of Bristol can swim in the city centre. 

I am aware that there may be several concerns about this:

1) the quality of the water in the floating harbour - I think this should be addressed by Bristol City Council, using Copenhagen as an example: http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/copenhagen/swimming-in-copenhagen-harbour/ As well as improving the city centre environment for the people of Bristol, it will help to attract tourists and encourage more wildlife into the area. More information on water quality in the harbour can be found at http://www.bristol.gov.uk/page/environment/harbour-and-rivers-water-quality 

2) interference with boats on the harbour - A simple floating structure, similar to that in the Copenhagen example, could be constructed to ensure that swimmers were kept away from boats.

3) the cost of setting up and running a facility of this kind - Depending on the scale of the structure used, I believe that Crowd funding could be used to help fund the development and construction of the initial infrastructure. Grant applications and sponsor packages with relevant local companies could also be explored. 

4) safety issues - A small fee and even annual membership could be sought from people who want to swim in the harbour to help maintain the structure and provide lifeguard facilities when it was open. The membership model works well at the Henleaze Swimming Lake, where there is a three year waiting list for full membership! 

Why the contribution is important

This idea is very important to me as I believe that it will provide a facility that the people of Bristol will be proud of and that they want to use as it will increase their wellbeing and fitness as well as encouraging tourists to the city.

The harbour is one of the best features of the city and could be utilised much better to become a lively and vibrant place and act as a focal point for all of Bristol.

The scheme would also improve the surrounding environment and could help encourage more wildlife to the area.

I think that as part of the European Green Capital project we should aspire to have levels of water quality on a par with other leading European cities, including Copenhagen and Stockholm. 

by user223219 on December 17, 2013 at 01:24PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 3.8
Based on: 6 votes


  • Posted by user961282 December 19, 2013 at 12:03

    I love this idea but I don’t think it will work in practice as there is a health risk. The floating harbour is part of an open watercourse fed at one end by the River Avon and at the other the tidal Avon – both bring polluted water into the harbour. Over the last few decades the water quality has improved but at time of heavy rain and high tides, the water is more likely to be contaminated. I don’t see how the Mayor could promote this unless water sampling for harmful pollutants and reporting on health advice was intensified – and this costs money.

    I found this on the council's website with some more information:

    We need to think in this litigious age, if the council approved swimming in a part of the docks and somebody became ill as a result, they could take action against the council.

    Perhaps it would be better to think more in terms of a swimming basin in the docks where water quality could be better controlled to ensure it's safe for swimmers. However, I'm not sure how this could be paid for as they're facing big cuts at the moment.
  • Posted by user223219 December 19, 2013 at 16:51

    The vision of being able to swim in the harbour in Bristol is a long term one, as I realise that it took a long time for water in the Copenhagen example to be clean enough for people to swim in it. But this should be an achievable and acceptable goal for our city, we deserve to have clean water for recreational activities in the city centre and maybe should start asking why the pollutants are able to enter the water supply in the first place.

    A swimming basin could definitely be more achievable in the short term, funded from Crowd funding, grant applications and sponsor packages with relevant local companies.
  • Posted by user318118 December 19, 2013 at 18:12

    I think this sounds like a great idea, the water quality issue is a serious one but is well worth addressing and what better catalyst?

    We should challenge ourselves to achieve genuine quality of life for as wide an economic demographic as possible in our cities and this idea democratises a resource which should belong to the community as a whole.

    On a personal note, having sailed in Baltic Wharf for 6 years as part of a school sailing club I think it would be fantastic to see the docks better used for all sorts of recreation.

    Water quality in the docks was definately a 20th century problem do we really have an excuse to let it to leach into the 21st century too?
  • Posted by user903826 February 15, 2014 at 13:48

    During the summer months 'illegal' swimming in the docks is something the harbour staff spend a considerable amount of time attending to ; I've long wondered if a designated area would make swimming safer and encourage those that were inclined to swim to go to that place .

    Within the Cumberland Basin behind timber fendering , adjacent to the original , now not in use ,entrance locks is an area that with relatively little effort could be used for swimming in .

    Benefits in this area are that there is a variety of depths , there is quay walls for sunbathing/cafe , some public parking nearby , at times the swimming leg of a triathalon takes place in 'the basin' , which would not be allowed were the water quality not within 'safe' limits .
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