The Fylde coast’s bathing waters have been given a clean bill of health for the first time ever in the latest Government classifications.
In the annual Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) inspections Blackpool South was rated Excellent with Blackpool Central rated good and Blackpool North rated sufficient.
St Annes and St Annes North were both rated good as were Bispham, Cleveleys and Fleetwood.
It is the first time that all Fylde coast bathing waters have passed the tougher standards that were introduced last year, and proves a huge improvement in sea water quality across the region.
The results mean Blackpool is expected to retain it’s hard-earned Blue Flag status for Blackpool South, opposite the Pleasure Beach, with the waters rated excellent for a second successive year.
Other areas saw a marked improvement with Cleveleys upgraded from poor and Bispham and Blackpool Central bathing waters improved from sufficient.
Coun Fred Jackson, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for bathing waters, said: “I’m absolutely delighted at this year’s results, which means we should be able to retain the resort’s Blue Flag for a second year, as well as encouraging everybody who comes to the Fylde coast to swim and paddle in the sea.
“The improvement in our sea water over the last few years has been huge. Not only is that good for the town’s local economy but it also has big health and environmental benefits too.
“The turnaround in our fortunes hasn’t happened by chance but by close working with our partners, heavy investment from United Utilities and excellent work from local businesses and communities.
“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.”
The classifications are the result of a remarkable turnaround for the resort’s beaches, where heavy investment coupled alongside work with businesses, communities and public sector partners has contributed to making sure the town has a coastline to be proud of.
Since 2011 the Fylde Peninsula Water Management Partnership, made up of public and private sector companies, 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.
At the same time, the Turning Tides partnership in the North West is creating bathing waters that the region can be proud of by working with key local authorities across the region, along with environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, United Utilities, Environment Agency and the National Farmers Union.
Since its inception in 2012, the partnership has helped reduce the impact of pollution in our sea water from inland, coastal and river sources, protecting bathing water quality and helping to sustain seaside economies.
In 1988, only 18 per cent of the North West’s bathing waters met minimum standards for cleanliness. This year, all 31 bathing water sites in the North West have passed the tough new standards.
And improvements in Cleveleys, Fleetwood and St Annes show Blackpool is not the only town to benefit.
Coun Roger Berry, Cabinet member with responsibility for bathing waters at Wyre Council, said: “This is really good news for Wyre and the whole Fylde Coast. Fleetwood and Cleveleys are rated as good which, combined with three Seaside Awards for clean beaches, means our coast is an attractive and enjoyable place to visit.
“This has been achieved by joint working with our partners, our staff and our residents and I would like to thank those who took part in beach clean ups throughout the year.”
Coun Ben Aitken, Chairman of the Environment, Health and Housing Committee at Fylde Council, said: “It is fantastic that all eight Fylde bathing waters have passed this year. We’re always striving to ensure the quality of the bathing waters is the best it could possibly be with regular monitoring. With the introduction of new technologies taking place we expect our results to go from strength to strength.”
United Utilities has invested more than £600m along the Fylde Coast on schemes to capture and treat wastewater since the early 1990s. Most recently, this included a huge storage tunnel system at Preston to improve the Ribble Estuary.
The water company is carrying out a further £100m worth of infrastructure improvements across the Fylde coast, including the storm water storage tank and new outfall pipe at Anchorsholme Park.
Sarah Jenner, United Utilities’ Environmental Strategy Manager said: “It’s fantastic news that all designated bathing waters on the Fylde coast have met tough new standards this year.
“We’re continuing to invest in major infrastructure projects that contribute to cleaner seas and beaches. Our storm water detention tank at Anchorsholme Park and Harrowside outfall pipe were both up and running throughout the most recent bathing water season – helping to reduce sewer overflows during storm conditions. And there is more investment to come in 2017.
“Creating a cleaner coastline is essential for the regional economy and the environment, and we’re proud to play our part.”
The ratings are based on up to four years’ worth of samples, taken by the Environment Agency, with bathing waters classified as excellent, good, sufficient or poor.
Sir James Bevan Chief Executive of the Environment Agency said: “Water quality at beaches has improved again this year, over 98% passed the high standards and there are 287 Excellent English beaches.
“The Environment Agency has led successful work to protect people, tourism and the environment. We will continue to ensure bathing waters are maintained and improved further, so we need partners and the public to work with us to reduce pollution.
“We encourage all beach-goers to check water quality advice, this is available at every bathing beach and on our Bathing Water Data website.”