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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Cumbrian bathing beaches 'blacklisted'

Some of Cumbria’s best known coastal resorts have appeared on a ‘blacklist’ of beaches which could be stripped of their official status as bathing waters because of sewage contamination.

Silloth beach photo
Silloth is coming under scrutiny

The Environment Agency has rejected a suggestion that the beaches could be closed because of strict new restrictions on water quality.

But under new EU regulations the seawater off Silloth, Allonby and Seascale could cease to qualify as being suitable for bathing.

In the south of the county, the list also includes Askham-in-Furness, and three beaches in the Walney Island area.

Under current rules, bathing waters have to be closed when there is more than 48 faecal bacteria in every teaspoon of water.

But experts now believe such levels of contamination can lead to skin, ear and stomach infections so the limit will be halved from next year.

It is thought that some sewage outlets in coastal towns drain directly into the sea, though campaigners say that more can be done to protect coastal waters.

For locals who depend on tourism, the cleanliness of beaches and coastal waters is a vital ingredient in making local tourism a success.

Brenda Holyoake, 54, runs the Allonby Tea Room & Gift Shop.

She said: “There was so much rubbish washed up by the storms in January but this is still a beautiful area.

“It has stunning views across to Scotland and the Isle of Man on a good day and it’s a totally natural environment. You just don’t get an experience like it in places that are overdeveloped.

“The beach here is certainly well used.”

Owen Browbank, a supervisor at the Golf Hotel in Silloth, said: “The beaches here are really well kept, and absolutely fantastic on the right day. It’s a very relaxing place to bring your family.”

At the forefront of the battle to improve the quality of beach bathing water is the Turning Tides Partnership, a multi-agency group which is active in Cumbria.

A spokesman said: “We are working hard to improve the quality of bathing waters in Cumbria.

“St Bees, Silecroft and the bathing waters at Windermere all have excellent or good quality water.

“We know we need more effort to bring the other Cumbrian bathing waters up to the stricter EU standards and are working hard across the Turning Tides partnership to achieve this.

“But we need local communities and businesses to help. From checking drains are connected right to not flushing disposable products down the toilet, we can all do something for cleaner seas.

“Please go to www.lovemybeach.org for more information or www.conenctright.org.uk to check your drains.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said decisions on the possible closure of beaches are made by local authorities.

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