The Fylde Coast could be set for its first ever Blue Flag it has been announced.
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.
Cllr Fred Jackson, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member responsible for bathing water quality, said: “I am absolutely delighted by today’s results.
“A huge amount of work has gone in to making sure that our waters are cleaner than ever and this announcement just proves the massive step forward that we have all taken.
“To have all of our sea waters pass the new directive is fantastic but to have a Blue Flag in Blackpool would be a massive boost to the resort and a real feather in our cap.
“People can now be assured that wherever they go on Blackpool’s coastline they can expect good quality sea water to swim and paddle in.
“Thank you to everybody who has helped to improve our water quality. From picking up after your dog’s mess to not putting the wrong thing down the toilet, it all makes a difference.
“We are doing our bit to try and make the sea water cleaner, but we still need businesses and the public to help us do more to make sure that we continue to pass the new standards.
“Anybody who wants to do their bit can visit the local LOVEmyBEACH website to get involved.”
Councillor Roger Berry, Cabinet member with responsibility for bathing waters at Wyre Council, said: “We are pleased that Fleetwood has been rated excellent and is in the top three along the Fylde Coast.
“A lot of work has been carried out to improve the quality of sea water at both Fleetwood and Cleveleys and although that is reflected in Fleetwood’s results, we are disappointed with the outcome for Cleveleys.
“Out of 80 samples taken over a four year period there were only four samples, in 2012 and 2013, which were poor. These have skewed this year’s overall result, despite results improving year on year since. Looking at 2014 and 2015 bathing seasons individually Cleveleys would be rated good.
“Major infrastructure improvements are already under way which will further improve water quality so there is every reason to believe that Cleveleys will soon equal the standards being set along the rest of the Fylde Coast.
“Members of the public have played a big part in improving our bathing waters by thinking about what they flush, not dropping litter and joining in regular beach cleans, so I’d like to thank them for their efforts.”
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.