Hastings’ beaches at risk of failing to meet EU water standards

Hastings Beach
Hastings Beach
  • Hastings has been named as one of 25 UK beaches at risk of failing to meet EU water quality standards this year
  • Hastings Borough Council has insisted work has already begun on ensuring the town meets these stricter standards in 2016
  • WWF has expressed concern at the effect water pollution is having on the environment, local wildlife and the town’s residents

Hastings’ beaches are at risk of failing to meet EU water standards this year, according to a warning issued by the Environment Agency.

Hastings was named as one of 25 UK seaside towns not expected to meet the new, stricter EU bathing water standards, with the Environment Agency stating the area’s bathing water is ‘subject to short-term pollution’.

The report said: “Short term pollution is caused when heavy rainfall washes faecal material into the sea from livestock, sewage and urban drainage via rivers and streams. At this site, the risk of encountering reduced water quality increases after rainfall and typically returns to normal after one to three days.

“Twenty warnings advising against swimming due to an increase risk of short term pollution were issued in 2014 for Hastings bathing water. These warnings were issued because of the effects of heavy rain on the water quality.”


Hastings Borough Council is already working hard with partners to ensure the town’s beaches meet the new standard for 2016.

Our partners are now optimistic we will meet the new standard for 2016. The first test samples for the current year are excellent.

Hastings Borough Council

A spokesperson for the council said: “The current warning from the Environment Agency that Hastings beaches might fail the standards is based on data collected for the four years 2011-2014.

“Water quality has improved consistently since then and particularly since 2011, which was especially bad. The standards are based on a four year average, so if 2015 is reasonable, the average will be much better as 2011’s figures are removed.

“Since the predictions were made last November, there has been an extensive programme of sewer investigations and other improvement work by Southern Water. And Hastings Borough Council, with guidance and funding from the Environment Agency, has introduced natural filtration measures into a stream which flows onto Hastings Beach, and which was one of the sources of pollution.

“Our partners are now optimistic that we will meet the new standard for 2016. The first test samples for the current year are excellent, although we must always allow for the risks of pollution following severe weather.

“Tourism is vital to our economy. Working with our partners the Environment Agency and Southern Water, we have put in place a whole range of measures to improve the quality of our bathing water.

“A major source of polluted water was a stream which runs through one of our main parks and onto the beach. We found that some houses were wrongly discharging waste water into this stream because of bad plumbing, and this has now been corrected. Southern Water has carefully investigated areas of their sewer network for faults that might cause contamination. And we are taking action to enhance the quality of the water by improving its natural filtration, through the use of reed beds.

“With our partners we are continuing to put a lot of time and effort into solving this problem, and are hopeful that, as a result of the work we have done, and are still doing, we will meet the new standards.”


An investigations statement in the 2015 Bathing Water Profile for Hastings also made reference to the improvements being made.

It stated: “The Environment Agency investigated the complex catchment of Hastings in order to identify possible sources of pollution. Surveys were carried out between 2007 and 2010 focusing on the Alexandra Park Stream catchment. We have not yet identified specific sources of contamination.

“The Environment Agency introduced a DNA tracing technique that helps us identify whether sources of faecal pollution are human or animal. In 2009, we used this method at Hastings and the catchment of Alexandra Park Stream. This means we can target further investigations and identify appropriate courses of corrective action.

“The Environment Agency are trialling innovative technology in Alexandra Park Stream which begun in 2013 to improve water quality.”


Rose O’Neill, WWF-UK’s water policy manager, added: “It’s shocking that, every time there’s a heavy summer downpour, beaches and rivers across the country get filled with raw sewage. It’s damaging to the environment and a danger to people’s health.

“Water companies released hundreds of illegal discharges of raw sewage last year causing ‘serious’ pollution incidents according to the Environment Agency’s figures. At the same time, waters in 44 bathing areas and a quarter of shell fisheries pose a risk to public health due to contamination from manure washed from farms.

“While there have been improvements, there is still a significant way to go - half of England’s rivers are failing good health standards due to discharges of sewage and run-off from farms.

“The Government must step up action to ensure it meets its own target for zero pollution incidents by 2020. The legally binding River Basin Management Plans, due to be signed off by the Secretary of State in December, must meet the minimum legal requirements by including action to clean up rivers and beaches so they are fit for people to use and for wildlife to thrive.”

The other 24 UK beaches not expected to meet the tough new standards are: Allonby, Cumbria; Lancing, Beach Green, West Sussex; Blackpool Central; Lyme Regis Church Cliff Beach, West Dorset; Blackpool North; Morecambe South, Lancashire; Budleigh Salterton, Devon; Mothecombe, Devon; Burnham Jetty North, Somerset; Porth, Cornwall; Clacton (Groyne 41), Essex; Porthluney, Cornwall; Cleveleys, Lancashire; Seaton, Cornwall; Fleetwood, Lancashire; Silloth, Cumbria; Spittal, Northumberland; Haverigg, Cumbria; Staithes, North Yorkshire; Henleaze Lake, Bristol; Teignmouth Town, Devon; Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, Devon; Walpole Bay, Margate, Kent and Instow, Devon.

St Leonards was predicted to receive the second highest possible rating of ‘good’, as it has done every year since 2011.

As part of the new EU standards from 2016, local councils will have to display signs at all bathing waters showing if the new measures have been passed and whether or not swimming is advised.

To view the bathing water profile of any town in the UK, visit http://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles.

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