Reprieve for South Bay as it escapes being cut from bathing waters list

Scarborough’s South Bay has escaped being axed from a bathing waters list because of coronavirus.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 1:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 1:22 pm

Regulations state that any bathing areas classed as ‘Poor’ for five consecutive years should be removed from the official list of bathing waters.

With South Bay’s water receiving that rating every year between 2016 and 2019, a fifth rating last year would have seen it cut from the official list.

But because of the pandemic, no rating was given in 2020. And now the count will restart.

Scarborough South Bay. Picture: Richard Ponter/ JPIMedia

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “The Bathing Water Regulations specify that any bathing water with five consecutive Poor classifications is automatically removed from the list of designated bathing waters.

“Since no classification will be produced in 2020, the earliest this could now apply will be following the classifications made in 2025.”

Opportunity for change

Scarborough’s representative for Surfers Against Sewage, Steve Crawford, has called on authorities to use this opportunity to find a permanent solution to improve South Bay’s water.

Scarborough South Bay. Picture: Richard Ponter/ JPI Media

“It’s great that it hasn’t been undesignated. I hope it gives us the opportunity to solve this problem once and for all.

“We’ve been given a reprieve. Now we need to come up with a long-term solution so we’re not having this same conversation about this beach being officially barred.”

Investigation into water quality

The quality of South Bay’s water has been a long-running saga.

Last year a £1million project to carry out an in-depth investigation of the quality of the bathing water took place.

As a result, a more detailed forecast is now available online for people looking to swim in the area.

Leah Humphries, coastal delivery and engagement manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “This project, led by Professor David Kay of the Centre for Research in Environment and Health, involved intensive sampling work in Scarborough.

“This saw over 1,500 samples taken across the 2020 bathing water season. These have now been analysed and led to the creation of a new forecast model for South Bay.

“The new data and modelling has led to an update in the Environment Agency’s pollution risk forecast modelling for Scarborough South Bay which predicts any temporary water quality issues. This has been implemented and will be operating during the current bathing water season.

“The upgrade means more information will be provided to the public about water quality and the information will be more accurate, enabling bathers to make informed decisions about entering the water.

“The sampling and analysis included 200 different data sets, such as rainfall, tides, and the flow of streams into the sea and means the Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership now knows more than ever before about the water quality in Scarborough and the factors that can lead to changes in quality.”

According to the Environment Agency’s bathing water profile for South Bay, 17 pollution risk warnings were issued in 2020.

Testing this season

Bathing water at beaches in Scarborough, Filey and Whitby will be tested until the end of September, now that the bathing water season is underway.

The Environment Agency will carry out regular checks of water quality at designated bathing sites.

Along the Yorkshire Coast there are 19 bathing waters between Withernsea and Runswick Bay, with 16 of those classified as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’.

The ‘Excellent’ rated sites include Scarborough’s North Bay, Cayton Bay, Reighton, Danes Dyke, Runswick Bay, Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby.

Throughout the bathing season, the Environment Agency will issue warnings of any forecasted pollution risk on its Swimfo website, covering over 170 sites.

Signs are also put up at these swimming locations to inform bathers about any possible dips in quality as a result of factors like rainfall, wind and high tides.

The Environment Agency will publish its latest classifications in the Autumn.

Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “High quality bathing waters benefit health and wellbeing and boost local economies.

“There were 135 million day visits taken to the seaside in England in 2019, which combined with overnight stays were worth £8.1 billion to the economy, so following the winter lockdown we have every reason to look forward to a great British summer this year.”

Scarborough’s North Bay and Whitby West Cliff also have Blue Flag status.

The award is given to beaches demonstrating high levels of cleanliness, beauty and safety.