More than 70% of English beaches rated ‘excellent’ for water quality

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

More than seven in 10 bathing spots in England were classed as having “excellent” water quality this year, official figures show.

Of England’s 420 beaches, bays and inland lakes designated as places where people can take a dip, more than 98% meet at least the minimum standards for clean water.

And 300 bathing waters (71.4%) in England met the top “excellent” standard for water quality under the EU Bathing Water Directive, the figures from the Environment Department (Defra) reveal.

Just over a fifth (21.9%) of the waters assessed were categorised as “good”.

It is the first time since the new system began in 2015 that the number of spots for swimming rated excellent has climbed above 70%.

Just seven sites failed to meet even minimum standards: Tynemouth Cullercoats, Scarborough South Bay, Clacton (Groyne 41), Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, Combe Martin, Burnham Jetty North and Weston-super-Mare Uphill Slipway.

Throughout the bathing season, the Environment Agency monitors bacteria in the water which can make people ill, and then uses readings from the last four years to determine the annual classification, with the 2019 results covering the period 2016-2019.

Values can vary as a result of factors including the weather, pollution from agricultural and urban sources and storm water overflows.

  • Tynemouth Cullercoats
  • Scarborough South Bay
  • Clacton (Groyne 41)
  • Ilfracombe Wildersmouth
  • Combe Martin
  • Burnham Jetty North
  • Weston-super-Mare Uphill Slipway.

Industry body Water UK’s chief executive Michael Roberts said: “These results are testament to the ongoing determination of the water and sewerage industry to protect and enhance our precious natural environment.

“Our bathing waters are better than ever before, providing solid proof that the huge investment by companies is paying off.

“But while these results are excellent, we want to go even further, which is why the sector has made a major commitment to spend a record £5 billion between 2020 and 2025 on environmental improvements, and we’re going to continue getting better results by cutting serious pollution incidents by 90%.”