Swimming prohibited: British beaches to be blacklisted by EU

Blackpool - British beach blacklisted by EU for donkey faeces and sewage

A new EU directive on water quality will brand 25 popular British beaches - including Blackpool and Margate - as 'unfit' for tourists, with compulsory 'swimming prohibited' signs being erected and displayed prominently by next year.

The EU has significantly tightened its water bathing standards for beaches around Europe, decreeing that any beach failing to meet them will be required by law to bear warning signs clearly stating the dangers, including an image of a figure swimming with a red line though it.

Under the new guidelines, two Blackpool beaches will be classified unfit because of sewage problems as well as animal faeces from the resort's famous donkeys used for tourist rides, reports the Sunday Telegraph.

The Environment Agency says the new test will be twice as hard to pass.

Many tourist chiefs are furious at the move, claiming that the new standards are unfair. They point out that many of the country's beaches have in fact improved significantly in recent years, and that the EU has moved the goalpoasts.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Sue Aggett, head of environment at Teignbridge council in Devon, said: "The problem we have got is that water quality is actually improving year on year - it's the testing that has changed."

Staithes, North Yorkshire, England

Last year only two beaches failed to meet EU bathing rules: Lyme Regis Church Cliff beach in Dorset, and Staithes in Yorkshire (pictured).

However, the new standards mean that a further 23 will be included in the list, and all will be required to display signs.

Seaton beach in Cornwall is one of those named on the list because of problems from sewage. Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, told the Telegraph it was unfair for beaches to have to display signs because it "gives the impression that things have got worse when they haven't - they've got better.

Agricultural waste is believed to be the main pollutant at 11 English beaches on the list. This is often due to effluent from livestock grazing near streams that feed into the sea.

The Environment Agency said: "Last year, the English coast was the cleanest since records began, with 99.5 per cent of swimming spots passing water quality tests compared to just 65 per cent in 1988.

"However, England's beaches will be under the microscope this summer as much tougher new EU standards come into force.

The new European standards will be twice as tough to pass in a bid by the EU to drive up standards across Europe.

In response the Environment Agency is urging water companies, businesses, farmers, local authorities and householders to continue to take action, reduce pollution and improve bathing water quality further."

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Swimming prohibited: British beaches to be blacklisted by EU

Beaches on the EU 'swimming prohibited' list include:

Staithes, Yorkshire
Haverigg, Cumbria
Spittal, Northumberland
Hastings, Sussex
Fleetwood, Lancashire
Porth, Cornwall
Porthluney, Cornwall
Mouthcombe, south Devon
Cleveleys, Lancashire
Burnham Jetty North, Somerset
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
Seaton, Cornwall
Instow, Devon
Blackpool North, Lancashire
Blackpool Central, Lancashire
Silloth, Cumbria
Henleaze Lake, Somerset
Teignmouth Town beach, Devon
Lyme Regis Church Cliff, Dorset
Morecambe South Beach, Lancashire
Walpole Bay, Margate, Kent
Clacton Beach (Groyne 41), Essex
Hastings, Sussex
Lancing Beach Green, Sussex

Water quality at designated bathing water sites in England is assessed by the Environment Agency. From May to September, weekly assessments measure current water quality, and at a number of sites daily pollution risk forecasts are issued. Annual ratings classify each site as excellent, good, sufficient or poor based on measurements taken over a four year period. You can see the results on the bathing water explorer website.

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Swimming prohibited: British beaches to be blacklisted by EU

The good: "Great beach with sand dunes for shelter from the wind and a lovely gentle slope into the water. Nice clean beach."

The bad: "Not really a beach for sunbathing or swimming, but a beautiful place for a walk. Well worth a visit."

Did you know? Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton lives in Nairn.

The good: "One of the 10,0000 wonders of the world" raves one Tripadvisor reviewer, while another calls it a "sandcastle makers heaven!"
The bad: "What's all the fuss about? 60's apartments and tacky seaside galore.Did you know? Property here is notoriously pricey. In 2009 a 1,393-square-metre plot was reported to have been put up for sale for £13.5 million. Some houses going for a steal at £7,750,000!

The good: "Just watch the waves all day. Sunny but very windy day which is the best way to see Fistral Beach. Can spend hours walking around the headland then sit and have a drink whilst watching the surfers."
The bad: "Parking restrictions a nightmare."
Did you know? The British Surfing Association, Newquay Surf Life Saving Club and the Newquay Boardriders Club are all based at Fistral Beach and the Boardmasters Festival is also held there.

The good: "It's got sand, and clean sea. Enough said really."
The bad: "All the above reviews are fine - that is if you can find somewhere to sit squashed in among the hoardes."
Did you know? Weymouth was given a Royal seal of approval by King George III. He used to visit during times of illness for a restorative paddle.

The good: "My 'Safe Place'. I must have walked this beach over a hundred times in all weathers and it never fails to amaze me."
The bad: "Why does everywhere you go for a pleasant walk have to be infested with dogs and their stupid owners?"
Did you know: Longsands has its own webcam, so you can check out the weather before you head for the beach, see it here.

The good: "Beautiful beach surrounded by cliffs, large enough to never feel crowded even in peak season. A lovely beach bar on the beach which serves food all day and dog and child friendly."

The bad: "Perranporth Beach is lovely, what a pity about some dog owners who seem to think it is alright to allow their dogs to mess on the beach and then just walk away leaving it where young children are playing."

Did you know? The Perranporth Surf Life Saving Club is one of the oldest in the country and hosts an extreme triathlon event every autumn.

The good: "Hengistbury Head is one of my favourite places in the world. It's one of those spots that restores peace to your mind."
The bad: "A bit bleak and windy, not much to do except pitch and putt."
Did you know? People have been settling at Hegistbury Head since the Stone Age and it has over a million visitors per year.

The good: "Sun, Sea and a secret seal that visits the shore here most days. Family-friendly with lots locally to see and do - like dipping your toes back into 1960's seaside family holidays for the day."
The bad: "Great beach but there are so many more spectacular and less populated beaches in the St Ives area."
Did you know? It's home to the Porthminter Cafe, a multi-award winning seafood restaurant smack bang on the shoreline. 

The good: "Heaven. The nicest beach I've seen in the UK."
The bad: "Get your binoculars out...the sea is over there. The tide was out but there was a disproportionate amount of dry/wet sand (as in miles of wet and a small patch of dry) considering how far out the sea was."
Woolacombe trivia: During the Second World War, the U.S. Army based their Assault Training Centre here. Thousands of small boat crews and infantry practised amphibious landing assaults on the beach because its long flat shape was considered to be like the Omaha Beach landing area.

The good: A "gem in the crown of Gower" has "unbelievable views"; it's "clean and peaceful... "The BEST in the West."... "The most amazing sight on the lovely Gower Coast."

The bad: "It is a lovely beach, but it is more of an adult orientated one, you park your car up the top of the hill and start walking, either down to the beach, or over the cliffs, which if you have children, I would not recommend."

Did you know? Rhossili Bay is located in an area designated as the first Area of Outstanding Beauty in the UK.


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