Rob Edwards, maintenance co-ordinator at Shadwell Basin outdoor activity centre, which owns the basin, said: “It’s idiotic stunts like that that cause real danger.” He said swimming was not allowed and under a bylaw anyone found in the water faced a £500 fine.
“I’ve had people complain to me about not having hair dryers, or enough facilities — it’s ridiculous. You’re not allowed to swim there full stop,” Mr Edwards said. He said staff spend valuable hours telling people to get out of the basin and clearing picnic debris and wine bottles from the water.
Yesterday dozens of bathers were spotted climbing a barrier to lounge on a pontoon meant for kayaks in the middle of the water. One swimmer told the Standard: “It’s like jaywalking; it’s against the law but everyone still does it. You have to experience it.”
Another, Tara, 24, said: “It’s so warm in there. I guess technically it’s illegal but everyone loves to come here on the weekend.”
John Hoffman, from Bethnal Green, was swimming with his dog when the Standard visited. He said: “We’ve been coming here for years. I don’t know why everyone is getting upset now.
“I don’t think it’s too dirty, and even if it is, we would still get in. It’s warm enough. The algae changes colour through the seasons, it’s lovely.”
The charity offers subsidised water sports for under-privileged children, but Mr Edwards said it has had to spend £3,000 on a fence to prevent trespassers after chains on a gate were cut.
“By the time I’ve convinced people to leave and walked back round again there are 20 different people swimming off there. It’s maddening. We get a lot of abuse. It takes away from what we are trying to do with the kids.”
A man drowned in the basin in July 2016. A Tower Hamlets spokesperson said: “In warm weather it’s tempting to swim in open water but Shadwell Basin is not a safe environment for swimming.”
A Royal National Lifeboat Institution spokesman warned of underwater obstructions and advised people to use supervised outdoor facilities, such as a lido , or head to a lifeguarded beach.
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