Turning of the tide at region’s iconic beach

Staithes from the beach. Picture by Gerard Binks.
Staithes from the beach. Picture by Gerard Binks.
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Images of the seaside village of Staithes have been used to attract visitors for generations but concerns have been raised after it was revealed it may not be classed as a bathing beach amid fears it will not meet tough new standards.

The cluster of cottages clinging to the coast above its picture perfect fishing harbour takes visitors back to a bygone era but in recent decades a very modern concern about the quality of bathing waters in Staithes has cast something of a shadow over its beach.

Scarborough Council could start a process next week which leads to Staithes being removed from the official list of bathing beaches. Low numbers and the lack of facilities for bathers could be used by the council as grounds to ask the Government to “de-designate” the beach as suitable for bathing ahead of tough new rules due to come into force next year.

But last night environmental charity, Surfers Against Sewage, said it was opposed to the proposal fearing it would take away the opportunity and incentive to improve bathing waters.

A spokesman said: “Its something that we are concerned about and such a decision takes away any safeguards or any opportunity to improve that bathing water.

“De-designating bathing water is a huge backward step in terms of protecting the environment and protecting the people that use the environment, the spokesman added.

A report to be considered by councillors next week says Staithes has “consistently failed” to meet the current standard, and new tougher rules are on the way.

Jim Dillon, the council’s chief executive, says in a report prepared for the council’s cabinet: “Staithes has consistently failed the “mandatory” standard.

“It has poor bathing water quality history and each year when the annual results are announced it attracts adverse media attention and has been labelled the worst bathing beach in England based on water quality.”

“There is a significant risk that achieving “poor” in the annual bathing water quality results and a potential de-designation by default after five years of ‘poor’ results, will result in negative publicity and could adversely affect tourism,” Mr Dillon adds.

Tests have found that runoff from agricultural land is the major source of pollution in Staithes Beck, something that is typical of all farms. However the report says that even if measures to reduce agricultural pollution and other solutions were introduced the waters would still fail the tough new Bathing Water Directive guidelines.

The authority says it has a survey which shows bathing numbers are low and the report says this is the main criteria for de-designating a beach.

Members of the council’s cabinet are being urged to back the plans to de-designate the bathing waters when they meet on Wednesday.

Concerns have already been raised that other English beaches will fail the new European guidelines due to come into force next year.