Failing seawater tourism worries

Third place: Walter Jones with St Annes Pier.
Third place: Walter Jones with St Annes Pier.

A BLUE flag rating for St Annes beach seems a distant dream, with fears growing for the town’s tourist trade if authorities don’t get their act together.

A recent study by the Environment Agency has revealed that St Annes seawater is among the worst in the North West, with beaches at Blackpool and Morecambe also badly affected.

St Annes Chamber of Trade co-ordinator, Arnold Sumner, has expressed concern at the continued problems with seawater ratings.

He said: “I’ve looked at a few factors regarding the seawater. There are still salmon in the river, while hundreds of starlings gather under and around St Annes Pier. It suggests to me that the sea is good enough for nature, but European Union standards are forcing us to act.

“Unfortunately we can’t do anything about what happens in Europe with new rulings, but we have time to act now and we must. We don’t want a situation in a few years time where St Annes beach is on some sort of beach blacklist. It could be potentially very harmful for the town’s traders.”

The Fylde coast has enjoyed a bumper summer of tourism, with The Open Golf, Lytham Proms and the Wartime Weekend bringing millions of pounds to the area.

Mr Sumner added: “If we want to continue our reputation as a renowned tourist spot we must improve the seawater in the area.

“I would hate to think there would be risks to the town’s traders if we failed to act.”

United Utilities has pledged to continue efforts to improve seawater quality in the area, with an investment of £1bn by 2015.

Annie Heslop, Fylde Beach Care Officer, works with the Environment Agency, United Utilities and Keep Britain Tidy, across the Fylde peninsula from Fleetwood to Lytham as part of the Fylde Peninsula Water Management Group.

She said: “It’s clear we need to make improvements ahead of 2015, not just in St Annes, but in Blackpool too.

“I work closely with United Utilities and the Environment Agency and I know everything is being done to improve the quality of seawater. If we work together I am quite optimistic we can turn the situation around.”

A spokesman for United Utilities said the company was due to announce a major conference into the problem next month, with a ‘What not to flush’ campaign already underway.

He added: “We recognise that the revised bathing water standards present a real challenge. Pollution of bathing waters comes from many sources including sewer overflows, agricultural run off, contaminated surface waters and from birds, dogs and donkeys around the beach.”