Blackpool MP warns beach pollution could damage tourism after latest sewage discharge

Blackpool South MP Chris Webb with Dr Barbara Kneale from Fylde Coast Against Sewage on Blackpool beach
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)


Pollution of Blackpool’s beaches could damage its tourism industry, the town’s MP has warned - after sharing figures which show 158 pollution alerts for Fylde coast beaches so far this year. Blackpool South MP Chris Webb has written to Environment Minister Steve Reed to highlight his concerns following the latest sewage discharge which affected St Annes North beach.

In his letter, Mr Webb blamed poor enforcement, a lack of funding from central government and “years of underinvestment by water company United Utilities in its infrastructure” for the repeated pollution. But United Utilities said there had been “billions of pounds of investment” made to protect the Fylde coastline with another £3bn due to be spent on environmental improvements in the North West by 2030.

Mr Webb said he was alerted to a discharge just before 6pm on Wednesday (July 10) which despite being on a neighbouring part of the coastline, could also impact Blackpool. He called it an "urgent problem for Blackpool".

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In his letter, he warned: “This is an urgent problem for Blackpool – a town where the economy is built on tourism and our beaches are the town’s greatest attraction. This summer, when families should be enjoying our coastline, they have been advised not to enter the sea.

“My constituents should be able to reap all the benefits of our town’s greatest natural asset. The pollution of our seas and beaches not only threatens our health but our well-being and sense of local pride.”

He added: “So far in 2024 there have been a combined 158 pollution alerts on Fylde Coast beaches. Environment Agency figures released in March revealed United Utilities to be the UK’s worst polluter. It released raw sewage from storm overflows into open water on the Fylde Coast almost 1,500 times in 2023.”

A United Utilities spokesperson said: “The North West coastline has seen billions of pounds of investment over the last 30 years and we are now able to store and treat more wastewater than ever before. There will always be times during prolonged heavy rainfall when storm overflows still need to operate to protect homes and businesses from flooding.

“However, thanks to recent schemes like the Anchorsholme Park storage tank and the new pumping station and long sea outfall, the impact of storm water has been dramatically reduced along the coast. Across the North West, we are proposing the largest ever programme of environmental improvements, with around £3bn proposed up to 2030 to further reduce the impact of storm overflows. We’re also committed to working with other agencies to tackle all pollution sources.”

Recent investment by United Utilities includes £80m building an underwater storage tank and a new stormwater pumping station at Anchorsholme.

Mr Webb said the Labour government planned to tackle sewage discharges by putting polluting water companies under special measures, introducing automatic fines for illegal sewage discharges and ending self-monitoring so companies can no longer cover up illegal sewage dumping. He added that he “welcomes the government’s plans to hold water companies to account” but requested a meeting with Mr Reed “to discuss how we can work together to immediately improve this urgent ongoing situation in Blackpool”.

A ruling is due tomorrow (Friday) by the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) on whether to allow water companies to increase bills to help fund investment.

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