MCS GOOD BEACH GUIDE 2002 - Brightest Outlook for British Beaches

The Marine Conservation Society [1] (MCS) has reported the brightest outlook

ever for Britain's bathing waters with the publication of the Good Beach Guide

2002 [2], this year supported by Cheltenham & Gloucester and the Crown Estate.

A total of 341 UK beaches have made the grade to be recommended in the Guide,

66 more than in 2001, and the largest annual increase ever. Even better news

is the decrease in the number failing the minimum EC standard [3] for bathing

water quality from 90 to 61 this year.

On-going improvements in sewage treatment and fine weather have contributed

to record improvements in every region of the UK, except for Northern Ireland.

In the North West a beach at Blackpool, where the Guide was launched, made the

MCS grade for the first time, along with 3 other recommended beaches in the

region. It is a great year too for the North East, which recorded the largest

regional increase in recommended beaches, and yet again record numbers were

reported in both the South East and South West. The Guide tells a similar story

for both Scotland and Wales, with increases in the number of recommended beaches,

although there are still a significant number failing the minimum EC water quality

standard in both regions. Northern Ireland took a step backward this year with

fewer recommended beaches and more failing the lowest EC standard for water

quality. The Marine Conservation Society believes work is needed to tackle all

sources of bacterial pollution to ensure that no beaches fail and more make

the grade for the MCS Good Beach Guide.

'The Marine Conservation Society is really pleased with the improvement in

bathing water quality this year and the wide geographical range of beaches in

the MCS Good Beach Guide.' said Kate Hutchinson, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer.

'Particularly encouraging is the decrease in beaches that failed the EC minimum

standard for water quality. However there are still areas affected by bacterial

pollution from both sewage and diffuse sources [4] and the MCS Good Beach Guide

allows the public to make an informed choice about where and whether to bathe'.

795 beaches in the UK were monitored for bathing water quality by the relevant

authorities [5] between May and September in 2001. Nearly half of the beaches

are recommended - 341 (43%) - and met the stringent criteria for clean bathing

required by the Marine Conservation Society. MCS will only recommend beaches

in the Guide if they meet the highest Guideline European water quality standard

and are not affected by inadequately treated sewage. 61 (8%) beaches failed

to meet the minimum water quality standards, 29 less than the previous year,

and the lowest number ever.

MCS will be lobbying the European Commission and Parliament to ensure that

the proposal for a new Bathing Water Directive (BWD) [6] does not falter at

the last hurdle. The current proposals include a more stringent water quality

standard at a level based on current scientific knowledge that will protect

public health and a greater emphasis on provision of public information.

To protect public health in UK bathing waters, MCS believes that a comprehensive

strategy needs to be developed that tackles all sources of bacterial pollution,

including agricultural run-off and storm water overflows, as well as outfall

pipes. More public information is needed on beaches that fail the lowest standards

and the sewage improvement programme must continue to ensure that all UK beaches

achieve the higher water quality standards that should be introduced following

the revision of the BWD.

Every year the MCS Good Beach Guide is published as part of the MCS Campaign

for Clean Seas, produced this year in partnership with Cheltenham & Gloucester

[7] and the Crown Estate [8]. By supporting the Good Beach Guide, Cheltenham

& Gloucester aims to help the British public enjoy the beautiful beaches

which are such a special part of our natural heritage. As a substantial owner

of marine land, sponsorship of the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas is part of the

Crown Estate's commitment to the good stewardship of land in its care.

The MCS Good Beach Guide 2002 is available free by sending a A5 SAE (for 54p)

to MCS, and is also published on the internet at www.goodbeachguide.co.uk