VOTE: Loss of top beach status spurs £1m research

More than £1m is to be spent to find out why Bognor Regis has failed to keep its place among the European elite of beaches.

Southern Water has pledged to make the investment during the next two summers to find out the reason behind the loss of the coveted Blue Flag.

A spokeswoman for the company said the money would fund an investigation into the possible effect a series of short surface water outfalls which discharge on to Bognor's beaches has on bathing water quality.

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"The findings will be used to identify any future investment requirements," she said. Southern Water had invested significant sums in recent years to improve wastewater treatment, including a new plant at Ford, to improve sea water quality.

But the spokeswoman pointed out the quality was also affected by other sources of pollution.

"These include run-off from farmland which contains animal waste, run-off from roads in urban areas and overflows from surface water drainage systems to which people have illegally connected sewers," she said.

Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb has told Southern Water's chief executive, Les Dawson, he expected action to solve what he believed was an inadequate sewer system which served Bognor.

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This led to stormwater surges caused by heavy rainfall and contaminated by raw sewage flowing into the sea.

Mr Gibb said: "It is not acceptable a seaside town that is dependent on tourism for a significant number of jobs should have to face the prospect of losing its Blue Flag simply as a result of high levels of rainfall in the previous winter.

"Southern Water needs to ensure sewage does not leak from its sewerage network into the sea."

The loss of the Blue Flag after eight successes in meeting the highest water-quality levels since the late 1990s has been partly lessened by the achievement of Bognor being given Quality Coast Award status for the second year in a row.

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This is granted by Keep Britain Tidy to beaches which have met the basic European water-quality standards, environmental education and information, environmental management and safety.

The award flag was raised above the town's eastern promenade by Arun District Council chairman Dudley Wensley and Bognor mayor Sandra Daniells.

Mrs Daniells said: "It's a great shame we have lost the Blue Flag. Hopefully, we will get it back soon.

"Let's hope we get a result from this research by Southern Water."

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