Rise in beaches failing safety standards

Beach in Blyth, Northumberland

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The number of beaches failing to meet minimum standards for water quality has risen following last year's wet summer.

A total of 42 beaches failed to meet the minimum EU levels expected for bathing water in testing in 2012, a rise of 17 on 2011's figures.

Heavy rain and flooding is blamed for washing pollution from town and sewers down to the sea.

There was also a huge drop in the number of beaches recommended for bathing in the latest Good Beach Guide.

Good Beach Guide: Top regions*































East Sussex



Only 403 of the 754 UK beaches assessed were awarded the top "recommended" award for their water quality in 2012, 113 fewer beaches than in the previous guide.

The previous year, a record number of beaches were given the top award.

Ear infections

The Marine Conservation Society, which publishes the Good Beach Guide, warned swimmers could fall ill from bathing in polluted water.

It said the rain and flooding led to an increase in bacteria and viruses in bathing water, coming from a variety of sources such as agricultural and urban run-off, storm waters, plumbing misconnections, septic tanks and dog waste.

The pollution can cause ear, nose and throat infections and even gastroenteritis.

The society said there was an urgent need for improved monitoring of overflow pipes which can discharge raw sewage into rivers and the sea from sewer networks when heavy rain overloads the system with water from street drains.

Least recommended regions*




Redcar and Cleveland












Dumfries & Galloway



Isle of Man



South Ayrshire









North Ayrshire



* With more than five beaches

Action was also needed to reduce pollution from farms and urban areas, ahead of tougher EU rules on water quality coming in from 2015, it said.

Coastal pollution officer Rachel Wyatt said: "Action must be taken now. With stricter bathing water standards from 2015 and summers that appear to be getting wetter, the iconic image of people bathing off golden beaches could be at serious risk.

"There is no simple solution to sewage and animal waste reaching our seas. However if the water industry, communities and local authorities recognise that there is a problem and begin to work together to find answers that would be a significant start."

The MCS said there were some promising local partnerships working together to identify problems and start trying to fix them, but in too many places there was an "out of sight, out of mind mentality" over water pollution.

The South West saw a number of its previously recommended beaches fail last year, including Plymouth Hoe East and West, Shaldon and Exmouth in Devon, East Looe and Bude Summerleaze in Cornwall and Charmouth West in Dorset.

In the North West, just three beaches are recommended for excellent water quality in the new guide, with popular beaches at Blackpool North and South failing to meet even the basic mandatory standards.

But Blackpool central and nearby St Anne's and St Anne's North beaches improved their water quality to reach the mandatory standard last year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Re54. Spain relies heavily on tourism and tourism only grows if you provide the best facilities. That is why they invest in these machines as they do in Turkey and parts of France. The Balearics have wonderful beaches because they have a small army check them morning and night. That way, people will go back to them time and time again. It's part of their economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Down here we're paying through the nose for water to 'clean the beaches'. If there is such a big drop in the quality of the beaches we are supposedly paying to be kept clean, I wouldn't mind a nice rebate on my water bill please Mr Cameron.

    When I say through the nose - 2 adults no kids, taking showers not baths on a meter: £660 per year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.


    'Who wants to go to a UK beach anyway...'

    You clearly don't get out much...there were warm days last summer where space on the beach was at a premium in Margate and surrounding areas...

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    If you want clean beaches, then water charges need to go up to build the sewage treatment plants needed to deal with this situation.

    There's no so such thing as free lunch.

    I went to Brighton two weeks ago and people leave their fag ends and and rubbish on the beach. Disgusting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    The country is falling to bits and we are discussing beaches......????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Quote //54. anthonygh
    I saw a programe a few months back featuring a Spanish resort that had machines raking litter from the beaches in the early hours.

    Joined up thinking in Spain....anyone see any in this country?//

    Yes Scarborough and Bridlington both have used them for the last 30+yrs to my knowledge

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    What do you expect when we pipe our sewage out to the sea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Re 26 FamilyGuy.

    ...you seem to be the only one who doesn't mind swimming in your own excrement. But I wouldn't go telling everyone that's what you do mind


    Why not? ... it gives the fish valuable protein ... leads to the wider debate on the benefits of Sea sewage to the sustainability of our fish stocks.

    Also provides employment to Council Beach Inspectors and BBC journalists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Maybe thats why Spain are in the dire position they are, misplaced priorities! The county's collapsing around them, but at least they have clean beaches kept that way by expensive machinary!

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    If I was foolish enough to enter the freezing water around the UK I'm sure that it would be within my capability to dodge the odd turd.

    Why anybody would want to swim in UK waters is beyond me, you can get to the Med for 40 quid and with UK petrol prices and traffic that makes it cheaper and quicker to get to as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    @43 - So Starbucks remove Corporation Tax and replace it with Sewage
    I have never had a Starbucks drink - so thanks for the heads up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Thanks OMG for pointing that out for me. Cheers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    REF Respighi the cost of keeping beaches clean falls to the local Water Company ours being South West Water and therefore the cost fall to the local people's water bills. Over the last 20 years or so or bills have been around £1000 per year to pay for the beach clean up can take place so the are clean for the holiday makers. So think on the only subsidy they get is from the water customers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I saw a programe a few months back featuring a Spanish resort that had machines raking litter from the beaches in the early hours.

    Why?.....The town knew they were a major asset in bringing in tourists...which the town benefited from. Apparently it is common practice there.

    Joined up thinking in Spain....anyone see any in this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    46 thistle

    "Ireland also saw fewer beaches meet good standard due to weather and like the UK we have some of the best beaches in northern Europe!"

    Bah, take your reasonable and balanced fact based comments and shove it . This is a bong eyed self harm blog for those who never get out the house, never mind go to the beach !

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Just another article about how big profit, no care companies are destroying this planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Of all the things that public money is spent on, keeping beaches clean isn't one that should be high on the list. We have much bigger worries at the moment.

    Surely the people who use beaches should keep them clean... but then they're the ones that leave dog poo and litter all over them.

    Wouldn't it be nice if people looked after their own surroundings instead of letting someone else do it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Quote //31. Peter_Sym
    The main reason for these 'fails' is fertilizer washing off fields, into rivers and into the sea. This happens every time we have an unusually wet summer.//

    Every Year then ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    If the water agencies dealt with the sewerage and visitors took their litter away we are half way to having good beaches. Maintaining beaches comes via local council s and which concerns are given priority. If tourism and local concerns warrant it they might improve what they do but something else will have to go as funding will not be increased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Rise in beaches failing safety standards.

    That'll be all the poo and chemicals then - good business sense though.


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