With new bathing quality standards looming (2015), some local authorities around the UK are attempting to de-designate bathing waters. Once de-designated, bathing waters can effectively be forgotten about, leaving the water quality to at best stagnate, and at worse deteriorate into an altogether more unpleasant environment for surfers, waveriders and bathers. Local authorities are trying to de-designate beaches to avoid posting warnings when water quality is deemed to pose a health risk.
SAS use current legislation to drive environmental improvements for designated bathing waters. The Environment Agency and water companies around the country prioritise designated bathing waters that are struggling to meet minimum bathing water standards to deliver improvements.
De-designating a beach will dramatically devalue the coastal environment and reduce the multi-agency protection given to the area. Environmental standards across the board, from water quality to beach cleanliness will fall and investment will be moved to designated bathing waters elsewhere. Local authorities are actively trying to hide the problem rather than make efforts to solve it, letting down their whole community.
On de-designation, Roger Jacob, clerk to Instow has said “It’s like the Jaws effect, putting people off going to the beach.” The main similarity with the Jaws film is the local authorities withholding important information from beach users. And, just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water!
They are missing the point of the signs; it’s not to scare away tourists. The problem is not the signs, it’s the water quality, which is something on which action can be taken whilst designated The signs are to warn that bathing in the sea has been deemed to be a risk to public health. SAS believe that, if a local authority knowingly withholds this important information it is acting irresponsibly. They should have a duty of care to their community and should want to allow the public to make informed decisions about how and when they use the sea before they expose themselves to potentially harmful pathogens.
On the 22nd of March 2011 SAS formally requested that DEFRA inform SAS as soon as a local authority apply for de-designation. In the DEFRA guidance it clearly states “bathing waters will not be de-designated because water quality has failed the current Bathing Water Directive’s mandatory standards or because it is projected to be classified as poor under the revised Bathing Water Directive.”
SAS will continue to be vigilant on this issue and oppose any de-designation in lieu of water quality improvements at designated bathing waters.
The worst thing that could happen is if the beach failed... because signs saying 'poor quality' would be detrimental to the tourist area… It's important that we don't have signs saying 'poor water quality' at Wildersmouth, especially in light of the magnificent new design proposals for the seafront. We don't want anything to detract from that.
Mike Edmunds, Ilfracombe's District Councillor