Cleaner Seas for the North West Coast
Whether you swim, paddle, or simply enjoy a stroll on one of the region’s many beaches, you can be assured, once again, that the quality of the water is cleaner than at any time in the last 30 years. For the second year in a row the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published statistics that reveal that all 27 of the North West’s coastal bathing beaches meet the government’s required standards for water quality, with 7 meeting the even tougher standards needed for a Blue Flag.
The water at our beaches has continually improved since 1988 when just 18% met the previous standards. In 2016, for the first time, all of the North West’s bathing waters met the required standards. This year, this important bench mark has once again been hit, despite the influence of wet weather over the summer.
The classifications of bathing waters across the North West (27 coastal, 4 in-land) are;
11 are Excellent – the highest, cleanest class and the required standard to quality for Blue Flag status; 14 are Good – generally good water quality; 6 are Sufficient – the water meets minimum standard and 0 are Poor.
The results mean Blackpool is expected to retain its hard-earned Blue Flag status for Blackpool South, opposite the Pleasure Beach, with the water rated Excellent for a third year running.
With improvements at Blackpool North, now rated Good, all the Fylde coast bathing waters are now classified as either Good or Excellent, highlighting the huge improvement in sea water quality across the region.
A range of participants have contributed to reducing pollution and improving the regions rivers, lakes and the sea, including the Environment Agency, United Utilities and local authorities. In 2012, these partners came together to form the Turning Tides Partnership, ensuring effective co-ordination of improvement works and to collaboratively develop and promote the ‘LOVEmyBEACH’ campaign; the platform which engages the local community on how they too can contribute to improvements at their local beach.
Neil Jack, Chair of The Turning Tides Partnership and Chief Executive of Blackpool Council said,
Turning Tides Partnership
“Today’s results are evidence of how clean the water now is across the North West region. In Blackpool we’re immensely proud that our bathing waters continue to improve and delighted that any of the 18m visitors to Blackpool can safely swim and paddle. To have the opportunity to retain the Blue Flag in Blackpool is really exciting.
“We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed towards making our seas cleaner from the National Farmers Union and Catchment Sensitive Farming project, to all the volunteers involved in the LOVEmyBEACH beach cleans, United Utilities’ investment in upgrading treatment works and building extra storm water storage, to every dog owner who bags and bins their dog’s mess to stop it getting in the sea.”
Hundreds of residents from across the North West have played their part in keeping beaches and seas clean with over 8,000 hours of volunteering hours dedicated to the beach in 2016/17 on the Fylde coast alone. LOVEmyBEACH officer for the Fylde coast, Emma Whitlock adds;
“Engagement with the local community is really important for the long-term preservation of today’s results. LOVEmyBEACH volunteers are advocates of important messages including what not to flush and pour; we ask everyone who lives, works and visits the North West to make a small change to help us have even cleaner seas. There’s lots of information about how you can get involved at lovemybeach.org”.
United Utilities continues to invest millions of pounds in improvements to the region’s wastewater infrastructure to reduce storm water spilling into bathing waters. This year a £14m upgrade at Chorley wastewater treatment works was completed, meaning cleaner water in the River Yarrow, the River Douglas and the Ribble Estuary, and ultimately cleaner water along the Fylde coast. Elsewhere, major investment continues in Blackpool at Anchorsholme Park and near South Shore, and at Morecambe where work is under way at Schola Green pumping station to reduce the risk of storm water spilling into the sea.
Natural England continues to operate the Catchment Sensitive Farming scheme and Countryside Stewardship scheme across Cumbria and Lancashire working with farmers to provide advice on land management and farm infrastructure to reduce diffuse water pollution. Over the last year officers have engaged with 670 farmers and landowners across the North West; helping them to adopt Turning Tides Partnership environmentally friendly practices and assisting with grants for capital work projects such as fencing off watercourses, improving concrete yards or covering over silage stores.
In 2018 the partnership looks to develop relationships with Public Health England to encourage more North West residents to use the clean coastline to keep healthy; both physically and mentally.
Keith Ashcroft, Environment Agency Area Director for Cumbria and Lancashire said, “We should be very proud of the continued improvement in the cleanliness of our North West bathing waters. The improvements come as a result of major investment in how our waste water is managed and the efforts of our Turning Tides partners. We will continue to work to ensure bathing waters are maintained and improved further so our beaches and seas can be enjoyed by both residents and visitors.”