Mayor Biggs orders enhanced safety measures at Shadwell Basin

  • Stop swimming at Shadwell Basin says Mayor
  • New CCTV and warning signage installed.
  • Swimmers encouraged to use Tower Hamlets swimming pools
  • Tower Hamlets enforcement officer patrols stepped up
  • Royal Life Saving Society backs campaign


As the heatwave continues, Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs has called on swimmers in the Borough to cool off at the 10 award winning pools in the borough rather than risk death swimming in unsafe industrial open water.

The Mayor ordered new measures designed to deter swimmers from using the Basin as a swimming area and today (July 26) visited the site. 

Many swimmers have been gathering at Shadwell Basin, a dock off the Thames, despite a swimmer drowning there two years ago and reports of swimmers getting into difficulty and one having to call for an ambulance just this week.

In 2016, seven people drowned in open water in London and a further three people drowned last year according to figures from the National water safety forum.

The area has traditionally been used for industrial purposes and has a number of dangerous hazards under the water that make the area unsafe for swimming.  

The area has a locked gate and signs tell people at the nearby Shadwell Basin Outdoor  Activities Centre that it is not an area for swimming but people regularly illegally gain access to the area from the nearby dockside to the pontoon.

Recently the lock on the gate has been removed by people using angle grinders and CCTV has been designed to apprehend those doing this and warn others not to. Additionally, Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers (THEOs) under the orders of the Mayor have been patrolling the area and asking swimmers to move on.

Mayor John Biggs said: “It’s just over two years to the day when we tragically lost a young man who drowned at Shadwell Basin and I do not want a repeat of the tragic loss of life.  I appeal for swimmers to stay away from the dangerous open water at Shadwell Basin which is not safe to swim in. Just 250 meters away from the basin we have a fantastic pool at St George’s baths and I urge people to swim there safely.”

Di Steer, CEO of the Royal Life Saving Society UK said: “We’ve already seen too many preventable deaths in open water this summer. Open water sites can have many hidden dangers such as debris and dramatic changes in temperature or depth. We urge the public to stick to safe, lifeguarded swimming sites and support the Mayor in this campaign, to keep people having fun but swimming safely.”


Cllr Amina Ali Cabinet member for Culture Arts and Brexit with a brief on open spaces said: “We’re doing all we can do to encourage swimmers to use our great swimming pools rather than swimming in dangerous open water. It’s free for families with leisure cards to swim at our pools on a Friday and Saturday, please use our pools and swim safely.”  

Mayor Biggs has ordered signs warning of the dangers at the basin and has invested in increased security including signage warning people not to swim. Fencing to keep people out of the pontoon area that is designed for boats. In July 2016 a 29 year old man  drowned when he failed to surface having been trapped by an underwater obstacle while swimming with friends 

The nearby Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activities Centre (SBOAC) will install a new pontoon gate and look to stop people accessing the water from the dockside to the pontoon.  The pontoon is also getting clearer “no trespassing” and “private property” signs.


Contractors have twice been down to remove a ladder that swimmers used to get over the locked gate fence.  The council with the SBOAC is now looking at additions to the fence to make it harder to get around and is installing extra signage warning of the dangers of swimming.


For more information about this or any other matter relating to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, call the communications team on 0207 364 4389 or e mail

Posted on Friday 27th July 2018