Page last updated at 23:21 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 00:21 UK
Fewer beaches awarded top marks

The wettest British summer on record ruined the UK's steady improvement of bathing-water quality and sewage-treatment standards at its beaches.

ScotlandNorthern IrelandIsle of ManNorth EastNorth WestChannel IslandsWalesSouth EastSouth West

But some regions of the country coped with it better than others, according to the Marine Conservation Society's Good Beach Guide 2008.


  • Beaches recommended: 28% (-47% on 2007)
  • Failed: 1

Jersey lost nearly half its tally of top-grade awards, despite having one of the best hi-tech sewage-treatment facilities in the British Isles, says the MCS.

And it says Guernsey urgently needs its own new treatment plant, after a summer in which only two of its beaches won "recommended" status.

"If the administration does not address the urgent need for better treatment technology in the next five years, the island risks falling a generation behind advances in the UK and Europe," it warns.


  • Beaches recommended: 6% (-50%)
  • Failed: 4

Only one of the island's 18 tested beaches made the grade this year, but the MCS says many bore the brunt of storm-pollution run-off "remarkably well".

But the MCS criticises the less-than-expected impact of the new sewage-treatment plant, opened in 2004, but to which the north and west of the island are still not connected.

"This means that raw sewage is still being discharged into the sea at a number of places around the island."


  • Beaches recommended: 68% (-15%)
  • Failed: 4

The North East emerges fairly well from the poor summer, limiting its loss of top grades to just 15% against the national average of 57%.

With 44 of its 65 tested beaches earning the MCS recommendation, it remains second only to the South West in terms of proportion of top-grade beaches.

The MCS says it has benefited from Northumbrian Water's investment, but expresses disappointment that the company has permission to switch off four hi-tech sewage-treatment plants out of season.


  • Beaches recommended: 21% (Unchanged)
  • Failed: 3

Only the Isle of Man has a poorer record, with only seven of the 33 beaches tested in the region winning MCS recommendations.

It welcomes the completion of various storm-water storage schemes, but says most beaches in the region are still affected by sewer overflows and storm-water running off streets and farmland.


  • Beaches recommended: 43% (-23%)
  • Failed: 3

The MCS believes things are looking up for Northern Ireland beaches, with the implementation of a 420m sewerage investment programme and the completion of sewage-treatment plants on the north coast and in North Down.

However, it warns that storm-pollution run-off continues to afflict the province, carrying fertilisers and animal waste into the sea, and it calls for urgent action to stem the problem.


  • Beaches recommended: 41% (-10%)
  • Failed: 18

The number of tested beaches failing the tests more than doubled in Scotland's wettest summer for 30 years.

But the MCS backs the initiatives of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and government to tackle coastal pollution and praises the electronic forecasting signs that have advised swimmers about bathing-water quality.

However, it is still concerned about the level of pollution from storm overflows around the coast, and says there are still more than two dozen outfalls continuously pumping poorly treated sewage into the sea.


  • Beaches recommended: 66% (-10%)
  • Failed: 2

The South East appears to be paying the price for the rate of new build in the region, with the MCS highlighting its high population density and extensive house building programmes.

It attributes this year's 10% drop in top-grade beaches to the unusually bad summer, but welcomes the opening of a new sewage-treatment plant in Kent, which it says is benefiting beaches from Margate to Broadstairs.

It urges rapid action to tackle untreated sewage discharge at Brighton Portobello beach and says measures need to be taken around the region to reduce run-off from storm pollution.


  • Beaches recommended: 72% (-10%)
  • Failed: 3

The South West remains the top region for the third successive year, with 139 of its 192 tested beaches earning top marks from the MCS.

It welcomes the impending closure of two raw-sewage outfalls at Sennen and Porthcurno and plans for similar action at Boscastle, Bossinney, Tintagel and Polperro.

Further improvements are expected when work starts on curbing pollution from storm run-off from farmland.


  • Beaches recommended: 57% (-2%)
  • Failed: 15

Wales' proportion of recommended beaches matches the UK average, but its total is only 2% lower than last year.

However, the number of failing beaches almost doubled. The MCS says the area's beaches are particularly vulnerable to storm-pollution run-off from farm land, which dumps animal waste and fertilisers into the sea.

It is also concerned at the high number of combined sewer overflows, which it says intermittently discharge raw sewage on to the coasts of north and south Wales.

It wants them upgraded, but is optimistic that other measures planned by government and agencies in Wales will improve bathing-water quality.

UK beaches: The full list
22 May 08 |  UK

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