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Record number of English beaches set to fail tough new EU water quality standards

A record number of England's beaches and lakes risk failing to meet EU standards for water quality, the Environment Agency (EA) has said.

ITV News Correspondent Damon Green reports:

Last year, 99.5% of swimming spots met the basic standards for clean bathing water with just two places failing to reach the mandatory grade, making the English coast the cleanest since records began, official figures show.

However, now one in 20 are on course to fail tougher new EU standards, which come into force for the first time this summer.

England's beaches and lakes are facing tough new European standards for water quality Credit: PA

The EA said the new tests would be twice as hard to pass as the EU tries to drive up standards, and appealed to water companies, businesses, farmers, local authorities and households to help reduce pollution and improve water quality.

From now until September, the agency will carry out its annual water quality tests at more than 400 beaches and lakes, and the results will be made available on the agency's new "bathing water explorer" website.

Water quality at bathing water sites in England are being assessed by the Environment Agency. Credit: Environment Agency

According to the EA, at the beginning of the 2014 season, 40 beaches looked likely to fail but following improvements this has now reduced to 25.

The beaches at risk of failing are:

  • Allonby
  • Blackpool Central
  • Blackpool North
  • Budleigh Salterton
  • Burnham Jetty North
  • Clacton (Groyne 41),
  • Cleveleys
  • Fleetwood
  • Hastings
  • Haverigg
  • Henleaze Lake
  • Ilfracombe Wildersmouth
  • Instow
  • Lancing, Beach Green
  • Lyme Regis Church Cliff Beach
  • Morecambe South
  • Mothecombe
  • Porth
  • Porthluney
  • Seaton (Cornwall)
  • Silloth
  • Spittal
  • Staithes
  • Teignmouth Town
  • Walpole Bay, Margate
Blackpool Central and North beaches have been identified as being at risk of failing the new standards. Credit: PA Wire

Dirty bathing water can be due to agricultural run-off, sewage overflows, animal and bird faeces on beaches and households and businesses with badly connected drains, with the weather the main short-term influence on water quality as heavy rain can wash pollution into the sea.

The EA said that major improvements to water quality had already been made, with water companies spending £2 billion since 1990 and pledging to spend a further £350 million over the next five years to help improve bathing waters.

By working with water companies, farmers and local communities, the agency pledges to improve more than 3,700 miles of rivers and 50 bathing waters by 2020.

Water quality at English beaches is better than it's ever been after it reached record levels last year, and we are working hard with others to improve it further still.

– Ed Mitchell, executive director of environment and business at the Environment Agency

As part of the new rules, from next year local councils will have to display signs on beaches telling would-be swimmers whether water quality standards have been met and if bathing is advised.

According to a recent TripAdvisor review, British beaches are among the best in the world, with Woolacombe Beach in Devon coming top of the UK charts.

Woolacombe Bay has been voted the best beach in the UK, and 13th best in the world Credit: PA

The Top 10 UK Beaches, according to TripAdvisor:

  • Woolacombe Beach, Devon
  • Weymouth Beach, Dorset
  • Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, south Wales
  • St Brelade's Bay Beach, Jersey
  • Porthminster Beach, St Ives, Cornwall
  • Perranporth Beach, Cornwall,
  • Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall
  • Luskentyre, Isle of Harris
  • Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth, Dorset
  • Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset