Beaches in Yorkshire: 18 Yorkshire bathing spots rated by the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency (EA) has tested various bathing beaches of Yorkshire for the quality of water.

Scarborough North Bay beach was rated 'Excellent' by the EA. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)
Scarborough North Bay beach was rated 'Excellent' by the EA. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)

The results, which were revealed yesterday (January 19), show that for 2021 16 out of 18 designated bathing beaches in Yorkshire were rated as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ and two achieved the minimum status of ‘Sufficient’.

One of the rivers in Yorkshire was rated as ‘Poor’ by the EA and bathing waters are monitored for sources of pollution known to be a risk to bathers’ health, with up to 20 samples taken from each site during the bathing season. Each sample is tested for bacteria, specifically E coli and intestinal enterococci.

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Along the Yorkshire coast, there are 18 bathing waters from Withernsea in the south to Runswick Bay in the north, with 16 of them classified as ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’.

The seven Yorkshire bathing waters that are rated as ‘Excellent’ by the EA are:

- Flamborough South

- Danes Dyke Flamborough

- Scarborough North Bay

- Cayton Bay

- Reighton

- Runswick Bay

- Whitby

This would be the first year that part of the River Wharfe in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, has been given an official rating after being added to the list of bathing waters in 2021.

Though a classification is an important initial step for long-term water quality improvement, it will take time to identify how to meet the required bathing water standards along with the financial investment and co-operation needed to make it happen.

To help with this, the EA is working with other organisations through the Dales to Vale Rivers Network (DVRN) - the catchment partnership for the Wharfe and Lower Ouse, hosted by the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust.

The network includes local authorities, landowners, Yorkshire Water, Wildlife Trusts and community groups and brings together research and actions.

First-stage investigations this year by the EA and partners suggest a variety of bacteria sources including human and animal DNA are affecting water quality in the River Wharfe.

The designation comes as Yorkshire Water revealed a new investment of up to £13 million to improve water quality in the area. This will include extra disinfection measures and a new scheme to reroute the sewage network in areas upstream of the bathing water site.

According to the EA, 99 per cent of bathing waters in England have passed water quality standards following testing at over 400 designated sites.

While there has been progress in recent years, the EA warns that there is still much more improvement to be worked on to ensure cleaner and healthier waters for people to enjoy. This means that a combined effort needs to be made from water companies, farmers, regulators, councils, local businesses and the general public.

Water companies in particular must do more to reduce pollution incidents and the use of storm overflows, while farmers must do more to prevent manure, fertiliser and soil running into watercourses. The general public can also play their part by never putting fats, oils, greases, wet wipes, cotton buds and other ‘unflushables’ down the drain.

Area environment manager for EA Yorkshire, Martin Christmas, said: “All eyes have been on Yorkshire this year after the first river bathing water in the country was designated in the country.

“The EA has already established a strong partnership approach to improving water quality at the newly designated stretch of the River Wharfe and we’ve put in place enhanced monitoring to help understand what is impacting bathing water quality.

“We are at the beginning of the journey at the site in Ilkley and we’re committed to working with the community. Yorkshire Water, local farmers, local authorities and other organisations to improve bathing water quality in the years to come.”

EA chair, Emma Howard, said: “With billions spent on seaside visits every year, we know good water quality helps coastal towns prosper. Twenty years of improvements in bathing water took targeted regulation and significant investment. While this is reflected in today’s results we must continue to work together to maintain this trend.

“We cannot afford to be complacent. Public confidence in water quality has faltered in recent years with new evidence of pollution incidents getting much needed attention as a result of some excellent campaigning. The polluter must pay. To restore trust, water companies, industry and farmers need to get the basics right or face legal action.

“The prize has multiple benefits to people and nature. The EA is working to ensure £120 million is invested in coastal habitats like England’s saltmarshes, which protect against coastal erosion and also store carbon equivalent to nearly 40 million people’s annual domestic emissions.”

Environment minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “Water quality is an absolute priority. We are the first government to direct Ofwat to prioritise action by water companies to protect the environment and deliver the improvements that we all want to see.

“But we must go further to protect and enhance water quality. Our Environment Act puts in place more protections against water pollution than ever before, we are investing in programmes to support farmers to tackle water quality issues, and we are clear that where water companies do not step up we will take robust action.”