Figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this morning show that almost all of the area’s sea water has passed strict new bathing water regulations, with three, Blackpool South, St Annes North and Fleetwood, being hailed for their ‘excellent’ sea water quality.
That classification puts the water quality at the three beaches on course to be ranked amongst some of the best in the world, by becoming eligible for Blue Flag status.
Seven out of eight sea waters – Fleetwood, Bispham, Blackpool North, Blackpool Central, Blackpool South, St Annes North and St Annes Pier - have passed the new standards, after a remarkable turnaround in their sea water quality.
In 2011, seven out of the eight sea waters on the Fylde Coast were projected to fail the tough new bathing water directive and would have to put up signs advising people not to swim in the water.
Following today’s announcement, seven locations, including Blackpool North outside The Blackpool Tower, will not have to display those signs next summer.
Work currently taking place at Anchorsholme Park is also expected to have an impact on sea water quality at Cleveleys.
Since 2011, the Fylde Peninsula Water Management Partnership has worked to increase investment in the area’s sewer network, as well as creating teams of volunteers and businesses to look after the quality of the Fylde Coast’s seas.
That work has seen United Utilities invest £160m in huge storage tanks underneath Preston, as well as an extra £100m worth of infrastructure improvements under way across the Fylde coast.
The public LOVEmyBEACH campaign has also helped to improve sea water quality, with messages around looking after the sea reaching thousands of people across the North West, as well as hundreds of volunteers doing Fylde coast beach cleans and dozens of local businesses signing up to be responsible companies.
All of that work has helped to improve the quality of the Fylde coast’s sea water to a much higher standard, meaning that more of the bathing waters have passed the new, tougher regulations.
All of Blackpool’s beaches, plus St Annes Pier and four more across Cleveleys and Fleetwood were awarded Seaside Awards by Keep Britain Tidy this summer, while a pod of 30 bottlenose dolphins were spotted swimming off the coastline in July.
Councillor Ben Aitken, chairman of Fylde Council’s Environmental Health and Housing Committee, said: “St Annes North beach was classified as ‘excellent’ while St Annes Pier beach was classed as ‘good’. One of them won a Seaside Award earlier this year and this is the second year running that the beaches in St Annes have excelled these tough new standards
“Decades of work has gone into improving the quality of our sea water and it is now paying off. The bathing waters have rarely, if ever, been cleaner and that is great news for visitors and our tourist economy.
“We want to keep the work going and residents can help by simple steps such as ensuring their pets don’t foul the beach and ensuring their drains are correctly connected. They have been brilliantly supportive so far and I’m sure they’ll continue their efforts in the future.”
Dr Pete Fox, Director of Land & Water at the Environment Agency said: “Water quality at beaches is better than any time in living memory, with dramatic improvements having been made over the last few decades. The Environment Agency has led successful work to monitor, investigate and reduce pollution, which has benefited the environment and people with nearly all of England’s beaches, 97 per cent, meeting the new stringent water quality standards.
“The Environment Agency will continue to encourage water companies, local authorities, farmers, and businesses to work together to maintain and improve water quality.
“The results are based on samples taken by the Environment Agency over the last four years. Information about each beach is available on the Bathing Water Explorer website.”
The new directive is based on up to four years’ worth of samples, taken by the Environment Agency, with bathing waters classified as excellent, good, sufficient or poor.
Even where the water meets the standards, sometimes water quality can be reduced, particularly after heavy rain, so please look out for temporary signs or information online that may advise against swimming.
The Fylde Peninsula Water Management Partnership - made up of Blackpool Council, Wyre Borough Council, Fylde Borough Council, Lancashire County Council, Environment Agency, United Utilities, Merlin Entertainments and Keep Britain Tidy - is working with regional partnership ‘Turning tides’ towards making all eight bathing waters on the Fylde coast continue to pass the new standards.
To find out more about the work being taken across the North West to improve bathing water quality, visit www.lovemybeach.org.