Three Sussex beaches designated as bathing water sites

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Three Sussex beaches are part of a record number of new bathing sites to get the go ahead.

Dozens of new bathing water sites in England have been designated ahead of the 2024 bathing season in the government’s largest ever rollout.

Water minister Robbie Moore announced on Monday (May 13) that dozens of new wild swimming spots in England are being designated as bathing waters ahead of the summer and will ‘immediately benefit’ from regular water quality monitoring.

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These include three Sussex hotspots – Rottingdean, Goring and Worthing Beach House.

Southern Water has said these Sussex bathing waters will benefit from ‘better teamwork’ as the beach season starts.

A spokesperson added: “Teamwork between Southern Water and its coastal partners is giving bathing waters a boost this beach season as communities come together to protect and enhance these leisure hotspots.

"Mid-May marks the official start of the UK’s bathing water season and the beginning of the Environment Agency (EA) annual testing programme, where water quality samples are taken at the 87 designated bathing waters in our region – up from 84 thanks to a new government announcement this week which has added Rottingdean, Goring and Worthing Beach House to the list.”

Now, 11 of the 87 designated sites are located in Sussex.

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The stretch of coastline opposite Beach House Grounds in Worthing. Picture by James PikeThe stretch of coastline opposite Beach House Grounds in Worthing. Picture by James Pike
The stretch of coastline opposite Beach House Grounds in Worthing. Picture by James Pike

Last year, Worthing District Council campaigned to have two beaches added to the list.

Councillor Vicki Wells, Worthing’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “I’m thrilled to hear that our applications to designate these two popular sections of Worthing shore have been approved by Defra.

“This has been a huge community effort, and I want to thank Worthing's dedicated volunteers who gathered all the information and evidence needed for officers to make these applications. Together we spent 88 hours on the foreshore last summer counting swimmers to highlight the need for these designations.

“It’s essential that we have greater understanding of our water quality, including types and sources of pollution, so our coastal waters are as clean and safe as possible for residents, visitors and sealife.”

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Southern Water has also published its annual Bathing Water Report, ‘exploring what the company is doing to protect and enhance our priority coastal environments’.

"When the last results were published in November 2023, 88 per cent of our 84 designated bathing waters were rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ by the government – and we are working closer than ever before with all partners who share responsibility for water quality to keep up and improve on those standards,” a spokesperson added.

"Southern Water already has one of the most ambitious plans in the water industry to reduce storm overflows with its £1.5 billion Cleaner Seas and Rivers Project set to start next year, adding to £40 million of ongoing spending on pilot schemes now – and widespread investment in wastewater treatment along the coast.

“But in many areas, water quality challenges come from other or multiple sources – this is why working with partners is so important and is yielding results.”

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Southern Water’s open water lead, Tom Gallagher, said there are ‘many factors which affect bathing water quality’.

He added: “The condition of private sewage facilities such as cess pits; road and farm run-off; private waste pipes illegally plumbed into surface water drains, and litter or dog poo on the beach, to name just a few.

“Working closely with councils, regulators and communities to investigate the true impact on water quality and take action is vital, and we are seeing some strong step forwards in this teamwork. After all we all want the same thing – healthy seas to enjoy.”

Southern Water said it has spent £157 million on designated construction projects ‘across the county’ in the last four years – ‘increasing capacity and quality’ at 37 wastewater treatment works.

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A spokesperson added: “Major projects have included a £79 million project in Chichester to take wastewater to Tangmere and relieve pressure on local treatment works and to seal sewers to keep sewge in and rainwater out, which cuts the number of storm releases.

"Action directly to improve bathing waters is part of the plan – towns near beaches are seeing 3,169 metres of sewer pipe improved – mainly using an innovative relining technique. A polymer sausage skin is pulled through the pipes and hardened with UV light. Relining is a tenth of the price of replacing sewers and causes far less disruption such as traffic management and parking bans.

"Another major focus is tracking down illegal misconnections where cowboy or careless builders incorrectly plumb new extensions or garage conversions into surface water drains instead of sewers. A single misconnected toilet can dump 20,000 litres of waste straight on to the beach.

“In Sussex, some 383 wrongly connected facilities have been tracked down by Southern Water’s sewage detectives since 2019 including 49 toilets.

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"One seafront café in Eastbourne was found to have its loos plumbed straight into surface drain that discharged straight onto the beach opposite. Areas targeted aside from Eastbourne include Bognor – where declines in water quality have been reversed, and in Worthing and Bexhill.

“We are also working with key environmental groups across Sussex, who have helped inform and improve our Beachbuoy service.”

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