BLACKPOOL is facing a major tourism blow unless it cleans up its polluted sea water, town leaders were today warned.
As the Good Beaches Guide revealed two of the resort’s three beaches were again failing to meet mandatory bathing water standards, pollution experts warned the situation will drive visitors away unless urgent action is taken.
Although Blackpool’s Central Beach and the two beaches in St Annes, together with the waters in Fleetwood, have improved from failing last year to meet minimum standards, Blackpool North and South beaches have not improved while Cleveleys beach has got worse.
If the waters are still failing in two years’ time, officials will be forced to display signs warning people against swimming in the sea under a new EU directive which will come into force in 2015.
Dr Robert Keirle, pollution programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society, which publishes the annual guide, said: “People will vote with their feet.
“If they turn up and see these signs go up, and they have to go up by law, they’ll say ‘forget this’ and drive to somewhere else that’s clean.
“We will lose tourists and the money they were going to spend in our towns and communities.
“This will impact seasonal jobs and their take home pay.
“The thousands of hotels and B&Bs in Blackpool are going to struggle if everyone does not pull together and turn this around.”
Dr Keirle said the reason for the pollution in the waters was down to last year’s heavy rainfall washing rural and urban waste, such as dog mess, into rivers, and residential overflow pipes not being able to deal with the pressure put on them.
Dr Keirle added: “The laws we are working under have been in force since 1976. We’ve had 37 years to comply with them, and we’re still not complying with them.
“The new directive is twice as stringent so if we don’t change now we’ll have even more failures.
“We are putting pressure on the National Farmers’ Union, United Utilities and working closely with the councils to improve urban drainage.
“We’re also reaching out into community groups to educate about cleaning up after dogs and not using toilets as wet bins. ”
On behalf of the Turning Tides Partnership, which was started to try and improve bathing water quality, Neil Jack, Chief Executive of Blackpool Council, said: “Bathing water quality has improved significantly over the past two decades, however as the Good Beach Guide highlights, there is still more that needs to be done.
“We want tourists and people living in the North West to enjoy our beaches and bathing waters and are working hard to address pollution issues that affect our bathing waters, which are a key North West asset.
“From large scale improvements to sewage treatment works, to identifying and stopping smaller pollution such as rain water running off coastal towns, work to improve our bathing waters is the responsibility of everyone.”
Lee Bryce, bathing waters manager for United Utilities, which is also part of the Turning Tides Partnership, said: “North West bathing waters have improved hugely over the past 25 years – in 1988 only six sites met bathing water standards – now that figure stands at 27.
“The £1bn United Utilities has spent on improvements to its sewer network has played a big role in this transformation.”
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “We do not want to get to the situation where we have to put up permanent signs about our bathing waters.
“There is not one magic bullet to deal with this, but various organisations in the area are working together strongly to find a solution so in future years we don’t have a red flag against our beaches.”