A 10-point masterplan was today unveiled to clean up Blackpool’s bathing waters and prevent beaches from being shut down.
The measures announced by the task force set up to deal with the urgent problem, Fylde Peninsula Water Management Group, range from reducing the flood risk from sewers spilling human waste into the water course to encouraging communities and businesses to take part in beach clean-up campaigns.
It is also proposed to work with bodies, including the National Farmers Union, to reduce pollution getting from fields into the sea via rivers.
The plan has been drawn up following the failure of a number of Fylde coast beaches to meet tough European quality standards.
Blackpool has been warned beaches could be closed and signs advising against swimming put up on the resort’s golden sands unless the water comes up to standard by 2015.
The priorities for action also include improving drainage systems, reducing flood risks by using brownfield sites for development, and working with the tourist industry to promote the part played by visitors in helping keep the beach tidy.
Coun Gary Coleman, cabinet member for regeneration and urban development on Blackpool Council, told The Gazette: “This 10-point plan is an important step forward in identifying the actions needed to help improve the Fylde coast’s bathing water quality.
“The group has undertaken over 500 surveys of properties which may have wrongly connected drains and have also completed a survey of more than 1,000km of water courses, identifying sources of pollution which affect bathing water quality.
“They are also working closely with farming communities to help reduce contaminated run-off water, carrying out and planning beach cleaning projects, working with businesses and even establishing a network of young ambassadors to raise awareness of the importance of this issue with the younger generation.
“The 10-point plan will now go to respective council’s for consideration and I hope it will be launched formally in April.”
Blackpool councillors have already set up a scrutiny panel to investigate the issue.
Coun Maxine Callow, shadow cabinet member for tourism who is leading the inquiry into water quality, said: “If we had to put notices up advising people not to go in the sea, it would be the death knell for Blackpool.
“We have got beautiful sands and we want people to come and use the beaches and for children to be able to paddle safely in the sea.
“This issue has been rumbling on for years but now it is really serious and we have to sort it out.”
The Fylde Peninsula Water Management Group has been formed to tackle the problem and met on Monday of this week.
It includes representatives of Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde councils, Lancashire County Council, United Utilities, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and the Environment Agency.
THE 10-POINT PLAN
1. Reduce the number of spills from water company assets and reduce the flood risk within the sewer network.
2. Reduce the impact of polluted surface water outfalls.
3. Deliver sustainable drainage systems within 10 years.
4. Prioritise new development on brownfield land to limit the contribution of new foul discharges and to maximise the opportunity to reduce surface water flood risk.
5. Ensure management of surface water at new developments meets current best-practice standards.
6. Incorporate best-practice water efficiency measures in new developments.
7. Improve beach management – Keep Britain Tidy’s Beach Care Campaign will continue to get local communities and business involved through their organised beach cleans and other activities.
8. Work with and support the tourist industry, publicising and communicating the issues, promoting the role visitors play.
9. Continue to promote Fylde beach care and develop and support community and business initiatives that foster ownership of bathing beaches.
10. Improve land management practices – A significant proportion of pollution reaching the beaches on the Fylde, drains from inland areas via the Rivers Ribble, Wyre, Lune, Douglas and from the Crossens catchment in Sefton and West Lancashire.