Olympic champion joins protests over sewage spills

Dame Kelly Holmes joined demonstrators in Brighton at a protest calling for an end to sewage discharges.

Thousands of people took part in demonstrations at more than 30 beaches, rivers and lakes across England on Saturday.

Speaking at the Surfers Against Sewage protest on Brighton beach, the Olympic gold meal runner said she had paddle-boarded on the River Medway, which runs through Sussex and Kent, last weekend.

"But it was disgusting," she said. "The smell, the colour of it - I thought something’s not right.”

Dame Kelly, who is a keen paddleboarder, told BBC South East: "You come for a nice day out on the beach, they put red flags up because the water's not clean enough.

"How is that right? Is that not meant for us to be able to enjoy?"

The BBC revealed this week how millions of litres of raw sewage were illegally pumped into Lake Windermere for 10 hours in February.

The situation has been labelled a "scandal" by Labour.

Downing Street said it was "completely unacceptable" and the Environment Agency had the power to launch a criminal prosecution.

* How much raw sewage is released into seas and rivers, and what are the rules?

* How clean are the UK's rivers and lakes?

But the number of sewage spills across the country's rivers and seas by water companies more than doubled last year to 3.6 million hours, compared with 1.75 million in 2022.

The Environment Agency currently has 22 advisories against bathing due to water pollution across England.

Dame Kelly addressed demonstrators in Brighton through a megaphone before leading dozens in a paddle out.

At a Surfers Against Sewage protest in Falmouth, surfers paddled out en-masse while sea-kayakers carried placards on their boats calling for fish not faeces.

More than 200 people entered the water at a wild swimming spot at Ferris Meadow Lake, in Surrey.

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