Published: May 29, 2014
MP joins battle to stop Burnham's sea water being EU black-listed

Burnham-On-Sea's MP has called for more action to be taken to prevent the town's sea water being black-listed by the European Union - leading to a ban on beach swimming next year.

During a visit to Burnham this week, Tessa Munt met with several residents and local councillors to discuss the impact of the EU Bathing Water Directive.

The town was recently named as one of 45 UK destinations where sea swimming is set to be banned from 2015 due to the introduction of EU rules which are twice as stringent as those currently in force.

Burnham faces having to put up signs marking its beach as unfit for paddling or swimming, which it is feared will damage local tourism unless expensive steps are taken to improve water quality.

MP Tessa Munt, pictured above with councillor Helen Groves on the seafront, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "I fully understand the local concern about the impact of this on Burnham and am raising awareness of it within the government."

"I intend to discuss Burnham's position with the water minister and will investigate whether EU funding could be made available to help Burnham improve its sea water quality."

"Clearly, Burnham needs to be competitive against other resorts in the region and we want it to continue attracting large numbers of tourists."

And Cllr Helen Groves said in a council debate on the matter: "We cannot just sit back and accept this. Funding needs to be made available to help us address the matter from the EU since it's their regulations that will affect us."

While Burnham beach was last week awarded a Seaside Award for its cleanliness and high standards, the quality of the sea water itself is in the spotlight.

The Environment Agency claims it is working to help Burnham meet the strict new bathing water regulations.

Its bathing water monitoring teams have begun taking samples across the South West every week until the end of September. The samples are used to assess the water quality at the beaches and identify and investigate sources of pollution, so the EA can work with others to improve bathing water quality.

Jonathan Ponting from the EA said: "With only a year to go until our bathing waters need to meet tighter standards, everyone has a part to play in improving bathing water quality."

"We are focusing on those beaches which might struggle to meet the new targets. We are working with water companies, local authorities and farmers to identify and tackle sources of pollution so beaches meet the new standards, and the seaside tourist economy in the South West of England continues to thrive."

Mayor Martin Cox said he supports lobbying the region's MEPs and Burnham's MP to raise awareness of the issue and seek funding. "We need to do everything possible to protect our jewel of a beach," he told Burnham-On-Sea.com.

Town councillors are unhappy that Weston has received £35million of investment in recent years to improve its sea water quality with a new water treatment plant while Burnham has received nothing.

The new EU water quality standards have been featured several times by Burnham-On-Sea.com over recent years, including here last October when town councillors expressed 'deep concern' about the impact of the changes on local business.



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